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Defense says it may call Edwards, mistress to stand

From Ted Metzger, CNN
updated 7:52 PM EDT, Tue May 15, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Edwards' daughter, Cate, did not testify Tuesday
  • Defense might wrap up its case Wednesday
  • Edwards was surprised to learn of donations, a former aide says
  • Prosecutors argue the former presidential candidate violated campaign contribution laws

Greensboro, North Carolina (CNN) -- John Edwards' defense team, close to wrapping up its case, on Tuesday left open the possibility of calling the former presidential candidate and his then-mistress, Rielle Hunter, to the stand at his corruption trial.

Lawyers also might call Edwards' eldest daughter, Cate, to testify on Wednesday, and recall prosecution star witness Andrew Young, a former Edwards campaign aide.

Attorney Abbe Lowell, indicating the defense may call its last witnesses Wednesday, said he would inform the prosecution late Tuesday of those who will testify.

Prosecutors did not call Hunter to the witness stand, instead relying principally on former Edwards aides.

A friend and adviser to Edwards testified Tuesday that the candidate appeared surprised to learn an elderly heiress sent money that ended up going to Hunter and Young.

John Moylan said he believed Edwards learned about the checks from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to Young for the first time in August 2008.

After Edwards went on ABC News to admit an affair with Hunter, Moylan took him on a trip, first to a South Carolina beach, then to Mellon's farm in Upperville, Virginia.

While Moylan and Edwards were staying with Mellon, she asked Moylan whether he had ever heard of Bryan Huffman, an interior designer. When Moylan said no, she explained to them that she had been sending checks through Huffman to Young to help Edwards.

"I was, and believe he (Edwards) was as surprised to hear it as I was," Moylan testified.

According to Moylan, Edwards responded, "Bunny, you should not be spending money on anyone."

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Monday: Legal team begins its defense

The defense, which began its case Monday, has argued that Young largely used the money for his own personal gain, while also paying for Hunter's medical expenses during her pregnancy in an effort to hide the affair from Edwards' wife. Donations for that purpose, the Edwards team has argued, cannot be considered in violation of campaign finance laws.

Edwards, who faces six felony counts, is accused of conspiracy, making false statements and violating campaign contribution laws.

Prosecutors say Edwards broke federal law by accepting over-the-limit donations of more than $200,000 from Fred Baron, a now-deceased Texas lawyer who was Edwards' finance chairman, and about $725,000 from Mellon.

They say the candidate used the funds to hide Hunter and their daughter in an effort to keep his candidacy viable.

But defense attorneys argue the money Edwards received from the two donors was for a personal reason -- to protect Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who was dying of cancer, and his family from public humiliation. Edwards has said his actions were wrong but not illegal.

Moylan testified that he called Baron after the Mellon conversation.

"I said 'Fred, Mrs. Mellon has been sending a significant amount of money to Andrew Young.'"

Baron replied, "That damn Andrew," according to Moylan.

During cross-examination, Moylan said that Edwards did not talk to him about the affair.

Former FBI agent Jim Walsh testified Tuesday about his investigation of financial and phone records.

Young's family was more than $40,000 in debt when he traveled to Washington in the summer of 2008 to confront Edwards about the Hunter affair, Walsh said.

Walsh also testified that Baron wired Hunter $74,000 over six months in 2008, well after Edwards dropped out of the presidential race. Baron started giving Hunter money in June and made eight payments to Hunter, most of them for $9,000.

For its first witness Monday, the defense called Lora Haggard, who worked as the chief financial officer for Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign.

She testified Edwards had nothing to do with reports the campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission.

"Mr. Edwards was not involved in the review, preparation or filing of the reports," she said. "We rarely saw him in (campaign) headquarters" in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Haggard's testimony is important, as Edwards is accused of making false statements because he never disclosed donations from Baron and Mellon.

Haggard also testified that she thought the checks from the two donors did not belong on FEC forms because they were personal gifts, not campaign contributions. Finally, she said the FEC knew about the checks from Baron and Mellon because the campaign was still undergoing an FEC audit at the time of Edwards' indictment.

Prosecutors wrapped their case last week, detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses used by Edwards' former mistress.

If convicted on all counts, Edwards could face up to 30 years behind bars.

CNN's Adam Reiss and Joe Johns contributed to this report.

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