Closing arguments in John Edwards trial set for Thursday

By Anne Blythe, McClatchy Newspapers
Posted May 16, 2012, at 9:30 p.m.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The jury that will decide the fate of former presidential candidate John Edwards could get the case Friday morning.

Closing arguments are set for Thursday and the judge will spend the rest of the time giving the 12 men and women instructions for their deliberations.

The defense team rested its case Wednesday without calling the former Democratic candidate to the stand. They also did not call two others named as potential defense witnesses: Edwards’ 30-year-old daughter, Cate Edwards, and his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, with whom Edwards had a child, now 4.

The defense resting as it did without testimony from the two principals in the Edwards scandal — Edwards and Hunter — made for an anticlimactic final day of testimony in a trial that has offered a tawdry look behind the scenes of Edwards’ 2008 run for his party’s nomination.

The defense spent much of the morning introducing evidence that Edwards and prosecutors agreed could be put into the record without witness testimony.

Among that evidence was information from a physician familiar with Hunter’s pregnancy. The dates of her conceiving a child with Edwards may prove significant. The defense may argue in closing that it was Edwards’ former aide, Andrew Young, who pushed for money to cover up Hunter’s pregnancy with the real intention of enriching himself. The dates of Hunter’s pregnancy may support an argument that Young asked an Edwards supporter for cover-up money before it was confirmed that Hunter was pregnant.

Hunter, according to the new evidence, likely conceived the daughter born to her and Edwards between May 25 and 28, 2007. The dates raise questions about the onset of the payments from Edwards’ wealthy supporter, the Virginia heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. A series of checks from Mellon totaling $925,000 was intended to hide a pregnant Hunter from the media, but much of it ended up benefitting Young.

Young, a key witness for the prosecution, testified early in the trial that he solicited funds from Mellon after Hunter told him in a phone call that she was pregnant.

The first check funneled from Mellon through interior decorator Bryan Huffman to Cheri Young, the wife of Edwards’ former political aide, was dated June 6.

The new evidence from Wednesday showed that Hunter did not find out from a doctor that she was pregnant until July 3, 2007, when a first-trimester ultrasound was done.

Neither the defense nor prosecution ruled out the possibility that Hunter had used a home pregnancy test, but the hormones that react to such tests would not have been present until June 3 or 4 to present a positive result.

The case, though remarkable for its soap opera story line, ultimately is about the reach of federal campaign finance laws. The jury will decide whether the payments to hide Hunter were for the benefit of the campaign, that Edwards knew about the payments and knew the payments violated campaign finance laws. The defense has argued that the payments were gifts directed at a personal matter and not subject to federal contribution caps or reporting requirements.

(c)2012 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/16/news/nation/closing-arguments-in-john-edwards-trial-set-for-thursday/ printed on July 25, 2014