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John Edwards Trial: Unlikely or Unbelievable Defense?

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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Montgomery, Al
Or just another sleazy, slimy Democrat?

Edwards case: Incredible v. unlikely
By: Josh Gerstein
April 23, 2012 07:09 PM EDT

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The outcome of the John Edwards trial could well hinge on which hard-to-believe version of reality the jury accepts.

That, and which man with an admitted history of lying — Edwards or his former aide Andrew Young — the jury decides is more likely to be telling the truth about what's at play in the federal case that got under way here Monday.

Prosecutors argue that the spending of $925,000 to hush up Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter is a huge aberration from the otherwise tightly regulated campaign finance limits that put donors at a maximum of $2,300. They say the campaign finance law at issue in Edwards's case is "quite simple" and "very simple," as prosecutor David Harbach said in his opening statement.

(Photos: John Edwards over the years)

That ignores that campaign finance law is in tatters and on the verge of complete irrelevance, with donors able to give virtually unlimited amounts. Just look at casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who's given $26.5 million in an apparently fruitless effort to help Newt Gingrich win the presidency. (If only super PACs were around in 2008!) Any juror who knows that wealthy people give millions to get presidential candidates elected is likely to smell a rat if prosecutors suggest that the $925,000 used to keep Hunter in luxury hotels and pay other expenses corrupted the federal campaign finance system, but that far larger amounts aren't corrupting.

As for the defense, they're arguing that Edwards had no idea about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Warner-Lambert heir Rachel "Bunny" Mellon spent to hide his mistress at a key time for his presidential bid.

"John Edwards did not ask for that money. He did not know about that Mellon money," Edwards attorney Allison Van Laningham said.

She's talking about a man who was a wildly successful trial lawyer with a talent for reading people, a detail-oriented candidate who in 2008 already had a presidential campaign and vice presidential nomination under his belt. She'd have the jury believe that this was a man who was completely ignorant of what a critical and wealthy supporter he regularly cultivated was doing on a matter of great personal importance to him.

Van Laningham did concede that, eventually, Edwards "figured out" that the finance director of his presidential campaign, Fred Baron, was "helping" Hunter, but not until months later.

The defense also implausibly asserted that considerations about protecting Edwards's political career were not a central factor behind the effort to hide Hunter while he was running a national campaign and keeping his future political prospects in play.

"John Edwards hid this affair to avoid humiliation to him and his family. He didn't do it to be elected president," Van Laningham argued.

That's a point Harbach hit hard at the outset of his opening argument.

"He had to keep it quiet. If the affair went public, it would destroy any chance he had to be president, and he knew it," Harbach said. "Edwards did what the evidence will show he always did: … deny, deceive and manipulate."

Van Laningham drilled into jurors that they needed to consider what the motivation was behind the effort (including, awkwardly, the part that Edwards contends he didn't know about).

"Was it public or was it private?" she asked over and over again.

The obvious answer seems to be: both. That leaves jurors to try to sort out the messy legal question of when a gift that helps a candidate personally and politically should be considered a campaign gift — and whether that line is bright enough that Edwards should be sent to jail for stepping over it.

Van Laningham stressed that spending is only a campaign contribution if "the purpose" of the donation is to influence a federal election. She suggested that meant it had to be the sole or primary purpose of the gift.

"It never crossed his mind that money his friends gave for a personal matter like a mistress could be considered a campaign donation," the defense lawyer said. However, she added a short time later: "It is not so easy to know what violates campaign finance laws."

In addition to the dueling, implausible narratives, the case is also about dueling liars: Edwards and Young, his onetime trusted confidant and now main accuser. Young, expected to be the prosecution's star witness, was the first one on the stand Monday, spending about an hour and a half testifying following the opening arguments.

Both men have admitted to lying rather flagrantly about who was the father of Hunter's child. Edwards denied paternity, Young initially said the child was his.

Edwards also lied about having broken off the affair when he had not.

And Young has reportedly acknowledged that at least some of what he wrote in a book about Edwards was not true.

In short, there is little reason to believe anything either man says about anything.

On the credibility front, the advantage appears to go to the defense. The prosecution has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. While jurors may hold Edwards in low regard, the judge has already instructed them that they're not to convict him based on their moral judgment about his affair.

Another impediment to proving precisely why the payments were made: the individuals whose motivations are key to the case, Baron and Mellon, won't be testifying.

Baron died in 2008. Mellon was in her late 90s at the time of the payments. She's now 101 and is believed too frail to travel from her Upperville, Va., estate to Greensboro for the trial.

The opening of the trial brought something of a spectacle to what appeared to be usually sleepy downtown Greensboro. About a dozen satellite trucks lined both sides of the street outside the federal courthouse here. Court personnel said they couldn't remember such a high-profile federal trial here in recent years.

Though the trial was postponed twice and jury selection has been under way for a week, court staff seemed unprepared for the onslaught of media and other onlookers Monday. By 7 a.m., there were already a half-dozen people waiting in the cold outside to make sure they had spots in the courtroom. When the courtroom opened at 9:30 a.m., the crowd far overwhelmed the 50 or so seats available. About 20 people were stranded outside, though the judge said in court that everyone had been admitted.

It's unclear whether Edwards will testify or simply allow his lawyers to present his side of the story. But already, the prosecution's shaky star witness caused them another headache on the eve of trial. Judge Catherine Eagles said early in Monday's session that Young had contacted three people on the defense witness list in recent weeks, including a "co-worker" he allegedly had a one-night stand with in 2007.

Eagles ordered the defense not to mention in its opening statement that alleged episode. However, Van Laningham mentioned in her opening statement Young's unorthodox outreach to the three witnesses, which she suggested fit a pattern of Young conspiring to bring Edwards down. The defense lawyer said Young and another Edwards aide expected to testify for the prosecution, Wendy Button, agreed to try to "plant stories in the media" to encourage prosecutors to indict Edwards.

Van Laningham also argued that much of the money Mellon provided for Hunter, and perhaps for other purposes, was diverted by Young and his wife to help them build a new $1.5 million house in Chapel Hill, N.C., and for trips, jewelery and a Lexus SUV. She said an Edwards friend will testify that the once high-flying politician was "genuinely shocked" when he learned of the money Mellon had spent and that, within days of that, the wealthy patron cut off the cash.

Harbach, who spoke first, acknowledged jurors are unlikely to feel much affection for Young but tried to deflect that onto Edwards.

"His hands aren't exactly clean," Harbach said. "You will not like him, but [he was] exactly the type of person Edwards needed" to cover up the affair, the prosecutor said.

"Edwards did what the evidence will show he always did: … deny, deceive and manipulate." :lol: :lol:
John Edwards is just like Barrack Obama, he thinks he can. Lie, steal, hook and crook his way out of anything. The man is done for as far as any political future, so save the money and let him go away and be the miserable S O B he is. :???: :???:
Does anyone really believe Bunny Mellon gave Edwards a Million dollar GIFT in an election year, to do as he pleased with, when he was doing CAMPAIGN FUND RAISING daily? :?

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