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Edwards not guilty on 1 count, mistrial declared on others
Jury acquits on one count; deadlocked on other five
Question of the Day
It featured testimony that sometimes read like political thriller, as aide Andrew Young described meeting Mr. Edwards on a secluded road, and Mr. Edwards warning him, “you can’t hurt me.” There was also the drama of John Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, tearing her shirt off in front of her husband in a rage after a tabloid reported the affair.
Mr. Edwards was accused of masterminding a plan to use the money to hide Hunter from the media and from his breast cancer-stricken wife. Prosecutors said Mr. Edwards knew of the roughly $1 million being funneled to Mr. Young and Ms. Hunter and was well aware of the $2,300 legal limit on campaign donations.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Bobby Higdon used Mr. Edwards’ own campaign rhetoric about the need for the rich and poor to have an equal say in elections — what he called uniting the “two Americas.”
“Campaign finance laws are designed to bring the two Americas together at election time,” Mr. Higdon said. “John Edwards forgot his own rhetoric.”
Mr. Edwards’ attorneys said prosecutors didn’t prove that Mr. Edwards knew that taking the money violated campaign finance law. They said he shouldn’t be convicted for being a liar, and even if he did know about some of the money, it was a gift, not a campaign contribution.
“This is a case that should define the difference between a wrong and a crime … between a sin and a felony,” attorney Abbe Lowell told the jury. “John Edwards has confessed his sins. He will serve a life sentence for those.”
They also said the money was used to keep the affair hidden from his wife, not to influence his presidential bid.
Neither the Democrat nor his mistress took the witness stand during about four weeks of testimony.
Mr. Baron died in 2008 and Ms. Mellon, who is 101 years old, did not testify.
Mr. Edwards met Ms. Hunter in a New York hotel bar in 2006 and they spent the night together. She soon joined his campaign, and despite a lack of filmmaking experience, the politician arranged a $250,000 contract for her to make a series of behind-the-scenes documentaries from the campaign trail.
Word of the affair eventually got back to Mr. Edwards’ wife. On Dec. 30, 2006, the day Mr. Edwards officially announced his bid for president at an event in his hometown of Chapel Hill, Elizabeth Edwards bumped into Ms. Hunter for the first time and became visibly upset, according to testimony. She told her husband to get rid of her, and while Ms. Hunter officially left the campaign, John Edwards continued to meet with her on the road.
Ms. Hunter became pregnant in the summer of 2007. As her belly began to show that September, tabloid reporters began tailing her. Within weeks, the Youngs had set up Ms. Hunter in a $2,700-a-month rental home not far from the Edwards estate in Chapel Hill, using the donated money.
In October 2007, a day after a tabloid reported the affair, Elizabeth Edwards blew up at her husband, according to testimony from former adviser Christina Reynolds. Mr. Edwards’ now-deceased wife stormed away from her husband at a private hangar, collapsing into a ball on the pavement. After composing herself in a nearby ladies room, Elizabeth Edwards ripped off her shirt and bra and screamed, “You don’t see me anymore!” As staffers scrambled to cover her up and whisk her into a car, her husband boarded a jet and headed to a campaign event in South Carolina.
That December, in an attempt to contain the scandal, Mr. Young issued a statement claiming the baby was his. Prosecutors presented phone records showing Mr. Edwards and Mr. Young — and Mr. Young and Mr. Baron — talked with each other that day and claimed they conspired to come up with the plan.
About a month later, Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign began to fold with poor showings in the early presidential primary states. Even before he officially suspended his presidential campaign at the end of January 2008, Mr. Edwards had begun wooing the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for a spot in their administration, perhaps as vice president.
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