John Edwards' trial over campaign finance violations has gone on for some three weeks now, transporting us back to 2008 and exposing the darker side of the man who might have been president. We've been reminded of the tragedy and turmoil, the betrayals and bad decisions surrounding Edwards, who's on trial for allegedly using campaign donations to hide his pregnant mistress so as not to destroy his chances at the presidency. We've gotten a glimpse into that campaign and its key players: Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in 2010; Andrew Young, once trusted former aide who loved Edwards deeply, now enemy with deep wounds and his wife Cheri; and the aging, blind, wealthy donor, Bunny Mellon. There was also a figure hanging in the balance: Would she or wouldn't she testify? That's the mistress, Rielle Hunter, of course. The answer has come: She won't.
That's not too terribly surprising, although it would have admittedly made for some excitement today—who doesn't, a little bit, at least, want to hear what Rielle would say? But, according to Anne Blythe and Martha Quillin, writing for McClatchy Newspapers, "Prosecutors told Judge Catherine Eagles late Wednesday that they still were on schedule to wrap up their side of the case on Thursday, and Hunter, the woman with whom Edwards had an extramarital affair and a child, was not one of the witnesses they intend to call."
As we speculated, Hunter is just too much of a wild card for the prosecution: "Legal experts said prosecutors apparently will skip Hunter because she didn’t have direct knowledge of the money involved in hiding her and they can’t be certain of what she might say on the stand" write Blythe and Quillen.
But there are other wild cards, including Edwards himself, "a trial lawyer who had much success with juries when he was in the courtroom, [and who] might or might not take the stand in his defense." Wednesday brought testimony that made that trial lawyer cry, or at least, appear to cry. According to The New York Post's Tara Palmeri, Edwards was brought to tears during testimony from former campaign spokeswoman, now White House spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, who'd been a close confidant of his wife, Elizabeth. Palmieri told the court that Elizabeth had been worried "that when she and John separated...when she died there would not be a man around her who loved her." Edwards "appeared to wipe his eyes." Kim Severson writes in The New York Times, "Mr. Edwards, too, seemed shaken as Ms. Palmieri spoke of his wife’s death, covering his face with his hands."
Palmieri also testified that Elizabeth was in denial over the affair, and would not believe, until Edwards himself admitted it, that he was the father of Hunter's child. In less denial, perhaps: Elizabeth didn't think John was going to get the presidential nomination, and she'd confronted Fred Baron and his wife over their continued friendship and financial support of Hunter, said Palmieri—with John in the room. This serves as a key piece of evidence for prosecutors, who are trying to prove that Edwards was aware that Baron and Mellon were donating money to help hide Hunter.
Cate Edwards, who's been with her father throughout the trial, did not appear for the session that involved this testimony.
As for what we can expect next, Blythe and Quillen write, "When the government rests, the stage will be set for the first key ruling in the trial. Defense lawyers will likely ask [Judge Catherine] Eagles, who will by then have heard the best evidence against Edwards, to dismiss the case in whole or in part. It is a standard maneuver in a criminal trial, but it may have a greater chance in this case in which the applicability of the law is also at issue."
While the prosecution attempts to prove that the money donated by Mellon and Baron was used to hide Rielle Hunter to save Edwards' bid for office, the argument for the defense is that campaign finance laws don't apply to money spent for "personal reasons" (like hiding a mistress). Per Blythe and Quillen, "Jurors will be asked to decide not only whether the expenses provided by two wealthy supporters should have been classified as campaign expenses, but whether there was any criminal intent by Edwards in not reporting that on public disclosure forms." If Edwards is found guilty, he faces 30 years in prison.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.