Prosecutors have portrayed disgraced Democratic politician, and two-time presidential hopeful John Edwards, as a liar as his trial started for allegedly using campaign money to hide an affair from the media and his cancer-stricken wife, the defense claimed his "sin" was not a crime.
Edwards, 58, faces six criminal charges by allegedly accepting nearly $1 million to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter and the child he fathered with her.
At the opening statements today, prosecutors argued that he broke the law by accepting the cash as an illegal contribution to his 2008 presidential campaign.
Prosecutor David Harbach said that Mr Edward's "image of a family man was critical to his campaign", and that he would do "anything to maintain his chance of being president".
Key witness, former Edward aide Andrew Young, had his credibility quickly called into question.
Presiding Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that Edwards lawyers could mention that Mr Young called three trial witnesses in recent weeks – which is a possible violation of federal law.
Young also was forced to acknowledge two arrests - one for his role in a 1997 car accident, and the second for drunk driving in 2006 in which he spent a night in jail.Edwards was given an award in 2007 as "Father of the Year".
Monday April 30,2012 - During an emotional day at John Edwards' federal corruption trial in North Carolina on Monday, Cheri Young, the wife of former Edwards aide Andrew Young, broke down during her testimony as she detailed how the couple hid his affair with Rielle Hunter, Edwards' then-pregnant mistress, during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Cheri Young began to cry when she was asked why she went along with the plan—initiated by Edwards—to put Hunter up in their home in an effort to keep her from public view.
"As she began to weep," the Associated Press reported, "U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles dismissed the jury to give her time to compose herself."
Edwards "sat back in his chair and put two fingers to his pursed lips," the AP said. "As Young dabbed her tears with a tissue, the former U.S. senator glanced at his watch."
"I felt like everything had been dumped in my lap," Young said after composing herself. "Everybody was on board but me. ... I didn't want the campaign to explode and for it to be my fault. I decided to live with a lie."
Edwards suggested that Andrew Young say Hunter was carrying his baby. "'Nobody cares about two staffers having an affair,'" Cheri Young recalled Edwards telling the couple during a conference call prior to the 2008 Iowa caucuses.
It was the second day of testimony from Cheri Young, who took the witness stand Friday. She told the court that she was "disgusted" with having to help funnel payments from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to aid in the cover-up.
"I cannot tell you how disgusted I was," Young said "Why me? This was my husband's fight. Now I had to fix it."
Young said Edwards assured her the arrangement was legal: "I heard Mr. John Edwards tell me on the phone that he checked with the campaign lawyers and this is legal. 'Get the money in.' He was very short and very angry."
Andrew Young, the prosecution's star witness, testified for four days last week, describing in elaborate detail how he was instructed to hide Edwards' affair with Hunter—and how they handled the alleged donations from Mellon and Texas lawyer Fred Baron to do so.
"My husband and I had both done everything to help make this man president," Cheri Young said. "If I didn't do this, take care of this, the campaign was going down."
Cheri Young also recalled how a National Enquirer reporter came to their Chapel Hill, N.C., home on a tip Hunter was living with them. "I screamed, my children screamed," Young said. "And we called 911."
Edwards faces six criminal counts—including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Hunter. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.Thanks To Dylan Stableford | The Ticket
Below are some highlights from four days of Young's testimony:
• On Tuesday, Young told the court that Edwards instructed him to approach Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the widow of banking heir Paul Mellon, "and ask for a non-campaign expense, something that would benefit him."
Young said he used the money from Mellon to rent Hunter a house for $2,700 a month and bought her a BMW at Edwards' direction.
"This was going to be a long-term problem," Young said. "And Miss Hunter had good taste."
• He detailed how Mellon's donations were funneled to Edwards. Via ABC News: "Mellon made the personal checks out to her interior decorator, who would co-sign checks with Young's wife in the wife's maiden name, he said. Young said his wife would then deposit the checks into their own account. The first two checks from Mellon were $10,000 and $25,000 in the summer of 2007, he said."
• Young also testified about Edwards' reaction to the news that Hunter was pregnant. "He said she was a crazy slut and there was a one-in-three chance it was his child," Young said, according to Politico.
• On Wednesday, Young testified that he and Edwards "came close to throwing punches" at a tense meeting about Edwards' mistress in June 2008. The former aide said that he also complained to Edwards' campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, about hiding Hunter, but was rebuffed because the campaign hoped Edwards would be tapped as a vice presidential candidate for the 2008 Democratic ticket.
"[Baron] told me I needed to stay focused on the job at hand," Young said. "He told me to take a deep breath. Do the best I can." Baron, he said, "wanted us to try and hold on until the Democratic National Convention."
• During his meeting with Baron in Texas, Young said he was told to itemize more than $200,000 spent on Hunter, including $28,000 for Hunter's BMW, $2,400 for housekeeping and Hunter's allowance: $40,000 in cash.
• On Thursday, lawyers for Edwards attacked Young's credibility, questioning his timeline of events and discrepancies in his grand jury and trial testimonies. But the nit-picky cross-examination from Edwards' defense lawyer, Abbe Lowell, may have bored the jury and the judge.
"As Lowell's detailed questioning continued," the Associated Press reported, "some jurors appeared distracted and even U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles grew impatient."
"I'm not quite following," Eagles told Lowell at one point. "We're about to beat a dead horse here."
Edwards faces six criminal counts—including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Hunter. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
WASHINGTON -- Having failed to convict John Edwards of campaign finance violations, theU.S. Justice Departmentmust now decide whether to retry the former Democratic presidential candidate on the five charges for which the judge declared a mistrial.
Edwards had been charged with six counts of campaign finance law violations. He was acquitted Thursday of one charge by a jury of eight men and four women in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C.
Several legal experts said a retrial seemed unlikely. They also raised questions about the trial's effect -- or lack thereof -- on campaign finance law.
"We knew this was a strange case, and it resulted in a strange trial with a strange ending," said Elliot S. Berke, a Washington attorney who represents elected officials on campaign finance issues.
He said the jurors' inability to reach a decision on five of the six counts "largely reflected society's confusion about campaign finance law and where the lines are."
"This was always a difficult case for the government to bring, and I am sure the prosecutors will take a hard look at whether or not they should pursue a retrial,’’ he said.
"Had they obtained a conviction, it could have marked a sea change in campaign finance law -- basically bringing under scrutiny anything of value someone gives someone who happens to be a federal candidate. I think this decision still should give everyone pause, but largely leaves the campaign finance landscape intact.’’ Read More Here