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John Edwards jury to resume deliberations

May 21, 2012|By David Zucchino and Matt Pearce
  • John Edwards leaves the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., last week.
John Edwards leaves the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., last week. (Shawn Rocco / News and Observer…)

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jurors are set to resume deliberations Monday morning over whether John Edwards conspired to violate election laws to cover up an affair during his unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

They have sat through 17 days of oft-lurid testimony about Edwards’ dalliance with Rielle Hunter and the baby they had together. Prosecutors say Edwards, 58, illegally solicited $925,000 from 101-year-old heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and the late Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer, to hide the child from Edwards’ cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, and prevent his campaign from imploding in scandal. Elizabeth Edwards has since died. 

Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of federal election violations.

After closing arguments Thursday, the jury deliberated for more than four hours Friday before breaking for the weekend. Jurors asked to see some evidence for extra consideration, including a handwritten note from Mellon in 2007 in which the heiress offered to pay for Edwards’ $400 haircuts. She sent it after media coverage ridiculed Edwards for the pricey haircut as he championed America's poor.

The requested evidence also included a phone message from Edwards to Andrew Young, an aide who, prosecutors say, helped Edwards hide the donations. The defense says Young used most of the money to build his dream house.

The call was recorded in August 2008, just before Edwards and a friend flew to Virginia to meet with Mellon. That was about six months after Edwards ended his 2008 campaign.  

"Everything's on go," Edwards tells Young in the message.

He goes on to say that he'll meet privately with Mellon, "making sure you're, uh, protected and included."

By the Associated Press’ reckoning, jurors will have to weigh whether to believe Edwards, who argued that he didn’t knowingly break the law, or his former aide, Young, who said Edwards recruited him to solicit secret donations.

The choice, as the Associated Press put it, “comes down to picking which liar to believe.”

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david.zucchino@latimes.com

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