The chief financial officer for Edwards' 2008 campaign, for instance, testified that the FEC did not require her to report the payments as campaign contributions -- even after Edwards was indicted last year. And a former FEC commissioner, Scott Thomas, testified that in his 37 years of experience with federal election laws, no one had been prosecuted for payments from a third party used to cover up an extramarital affair.
The defense accused prosecutors of distracting jurors from the essence of the case -- dull, dry campaign finance law -- with "salacious stories" of the affair and coverup. Defense lawyers conceded that Edwards was a philandering husband who lied to his wife and to the nation, but they insisted he broke no laws.
It was Young, not Edwards, who masterminded the scheme to solicit the money and hide Hunter, defense lawyers said.
They called only seven witnesses from an original list of 65, and spent little more than two days to present Edwards' defense. Considerable testimony focused on how the Youngs siphoned off much of the payments for themselves, keeping a phony set of books designed to make it appear that all payments went to support Hunter.
Instead, the defense showed in hours of testimony from a financial expert that the Youngs used the money to build a $1.6-million mansion and to embark on vacations and shopping sprees. Andrew Young even spent $35,000 on porcelain veneers for his teeth.
"They could shame Bonnie and Clyde," defense attorney Abbe Lowell told the jury, referring to the Youngs.
Prosecutors responded by saying Young was the "perfect fall guy" for a scheming Edwards, and that the hapless Young had been "thrown under the bus" by his boss after years as a loyal aide.
"And the Greyhound, folks, has been rolling through this courtroom for weeks," lead prosecutor David Harbach told jurors.
After all the lurid testimony about Edwards' secret love life and elaborate lies, the jury was instructed to focus on narrow points of campaign finance law.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles told jurors that prosecutors did not have to prove that the sole purpose of the payments was to influence the election-- only that there was a "real purpose or an intended purpose" to do so.
In declaring that influencing the election was "a" purpose of the payments, rather than "the" purpose, Eagles interpreted the law in a way that helped prosecutors make their case. The defense had argued that the law says "the purpose of a campaign contribution is to influence election."
"On the other hand," Eagles instructed jurors, "if the donor would have made the gift or payment notwithstanding the election, it does not become a contribution merely because the gift or payment might have some impact on the election."
Jurors seemed to focus on that point, asking to review more than 60 exhibits about the payments. In one handwritten note to Young in 2007, following embarrassing media reports about a $400 haircut Edwards charged as a campaign expense, Mellon asked that future bills for "haircuts, etc., that are a necessary and important part of his campaign" be sent to her.
"It is a way to help our friends without government restrictions," Mellon wrote.
Prosecutors wound up their case with an August 2008 TV interview Edwards gave to ABC News. In court, Edwards watched himself lie on national TV, claiming the affair was brief and that he was not the father of Hunter’s baby.
The prosecution hoped jurors who watched Edwards lie would conclude that he was also lying when he said – in the interview and through his lawyers in court – that he did not know about the payments.
The defense sought to sever the link between what lead attorney Abbe Lowell called Edwards’ "bad marriage conduct" and his lies about the affair.
"This is a case that should define the difference between someone committing a wrong and committing a crime," Lowell told the jury. "John Edwards has confessed his sins. He will serve a life sentence for those."
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