Prosecution ends in John Edwards trial

2012-05-11 11:05

Greensboro - Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday in the trial against disgraced Democratic politician John Edwards, accused of using campaign funds to hide an affair from the public.

Edwards, once a promising Democratic presidential candidate, saw his career collapse after he fathered a child with videographer Rielle Hunter in 2007 and then lied about the affair to his cancer-stricken wife and the public.

The former North Carolina senator, aged 58, has pleaded not guilty to six criminal charges related to accepting nearly $1m from two wealthy donors to hide his affair and Hunter's pregnancy, in violation of campaign finance laws. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The prosecution did not ask for Hunter to testify, but she could be called to the stand when the defence begins presenting its case next week. There have been about two dozen witnesses so far in the trial, which got underway three weeks ago.

"I think she might have been too unpredictable, and distracted from the main points they wanted to make," Elon University School of Law professor Steven Friedland said of Hunter.

Prosecutors were riding their hopes for conviction on a key interview in which Edwards publicly admitted the affair for the first time but denied being the father of Hunter's baby girl, Frances Quinn, despite insisting he wanted to tell the truth.

End of the road

"I have never asked anybody to pay a dime of money. Never been told that any money has been paid. Nothing has been done at my request," Edwards told ABC television's Nightline.

"So if the allegation is that somehow I participated in the payment of money, that is a lie. An absolute lie."

In court, Edwards rested his chin on his fist as the 20-minute video was shown.

The interview aired in August 2008, after his presidential bid ended. Just days earlier, Edwards was photographed cradling Hunter's baby girl, Frances Quinn, at a Beverly Hills hotel. But he refused to publicly recognise that he had fathered the child until January 2010.

The money came from wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron, who died in 2008, and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, now 101-years-old, the widow of banking heir Paul Mellon.

Baron was said to have spent more than $80 000 on private jets to shuttle Hunter and the family of one-time Edwards aide Andrew Young, who falsely claimed paternity of the child just before a tabloid revealed the affair, around the country as part of the cover-up.

Reached out to Obama

Defence attorneys also say Edwards did not ask for the money that was used to hide the affair, and that the contributions were unrelated to the campaign.

Former Edwards economic policy adviser Leo Hindery testified that his boss had asked him to reach out to then-candidate Barack Obama's campaign about the possibility of getting a vice presidential nod.

Tom Daschle, a former US Senate majority leader then serving on the Obama campaign, was the go-between. When Obama said no, Hindery was then asked to contact Hillary Clinton's campaign, which also declined.