Prosecution Rests In Edwards Trial


Prosecutors rested their campaign fraud case against John Edwards on Thursday after 14 days of dramatic and often unflattering testimony that focused on the once-promising politician's infidelity and the secret money they say he used to cover up the affair he feared would derail his presidential ambitions.

In its final act, federal prosecutors played a tape of a 2008 national television interview in which the Democrat repeatedly lied about his extramarital affair with the woman who was part of his campaign staff and denied fathering her baby.

The testimony repeatedly showed an unappealing side of Edwards, casting him as a liar and lousy husband. The question is whether prosecutors showed he violated campaign finance laws in using nearly $1 million in undisclosed payments from two wealthy campaign donors to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House.

To prove their case, the government has to not only show that the ex-North Carolina senator knew what the money was being used for, but that he knew he was violating the law and did it anyway.

"The case is weak," said Kieran J. Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor turned Raleigh defense lawyer who has been attending the trial. "They've not shown criminal intent."

On Friday, Edwards' defense team will have its turn and plans to ask U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Such motions are routine in criminal trials after the prosecution rests, and they very rarely work. The 58-year-old Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. "The prosecution's evidence is good enough to get to the jury, but conviction remains an open question," said Steve Friedland, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Elon University School of Law who has attended the trial. "The case is largely built on circumstantial evidence. There is no smoking gun." If the judge allows the trial to go forward, the defense will begin presenting its side Monday - and may call his mistress, Rielle Hunter, to testify. Edwards could also take the stand in his own defense.
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Source: Yellowbrix

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