Edwards defense team considers witnesses

Mistress, daughter, aide might be called to testify

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The defense, in turn, has focused on undermining the credibility of the government’s key witnesses and showing that Edwards and his campaign never touched the money at issue.

Records introduced Tuesday showed Edwards‘ 2008 campaign finance chairman, the late Fred Baron, used personal funds to pay Hunter a $9,000 monthly cash allowance, on top of providing flights on private jets, stays at luxury resorts and a $20,000-a-month California rental mansion.

A wealthy Texas trial lawyer, Baron was one of two political supporters who combined gave about $1 million to help hide Hunter. Evidence shows regular deposits from Baron’s account into Hunter’s checking account, the sum totaling $74,000.

The deposits began in June 2008 — several months after Edwards ended his White House run — and continued until December 2008, two months after Baron died of cancer.

The timing of the payments is important. The defense has argued that most of the money at issue was spent after Edwards ended his presidential bid in January 2008 and can therefore not be considered a campaign contribution intended to influence the outcome of the election. Prosecutors claim Edwards was still seeking the Democratic vice presidential nomination or a future appointment as attorney general, providing a political motivation to continue hiding his affair.

Though Edwards‘ attorneys have conceded he had some limited knowledge of Baron’s support for Hunter, they deny he knew anything about $725,000 provided to Young by the wealthy heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, an ardent supporter of Edwards‘ campaign. But even if he had, the defense argues, the secret payments were not campaign contributions — bur rather gifts intended to hide Hunter from Edwards‘ wife Elizabeth. She died in late 2010 after battling cancer.

The defense has also hammered the credibility of Young, once so close to Edwards he falsely claimed paternity of Hunter’s baby in December 2008 when a tabloid first threatened to expose that Hunter was pregnant. The aide later fell out with Edwards, writing a tell-all book about the affair in 2010 that helped force Edwards to finally acknowledge his paternity.

The defense has used testimony from other witnesses and records entered into evidence to paint Young as a self-interested liar who fabricated whole scenes in his book. They also pointed out instances where Young, who testified under an immunity agreement with the government, contradicted his earlier accounts on the witness stand.

According to financial records introduced Tuesday, the Youngs received a total of $1.07 million from Baron and Mellon in 2007 and 2008. The couple later amended their tax returns for those yeas to indicate they spent about $191,000 on Hunter, paying gift taxes on the money. Defense attorneys argue that number is likely inflated.

Financial records for the couple show most of the money that the Youngs received from Mellon and Baron was spent on the couple’s $1.6 million home in North Carolina.

Earlier Tuesday, Edwards‘ former lawyer, Wade Smith, testified about conversations he had with Alex D. Forger, an attorney for Mellon. Forger had earlier testified for prosecutors, saying he told Smith that Edwards acknowledged some of the “Bunny Money” had been given for his benefit.

Smith said Forger misunderstood their conversation.

“I would not ever quote my client to someone else,” Smith testified, saying that would violate attorney-client privilege.

When Edwards‘ team rests its case, prosecutors will get the chance to call witnesses for the limited purpose of rebutting the testimony and evidence presented by the defense.

The two sides will then be allotted equal amounts of time to make their closing arguments before the judge instructs the jury on the details of what to consider in arriving at their verdict.

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