Lawyers for John Edwards rested their defense today without calling the former presidential candidate to testify at his trial over alleged campaign-donation violations.
Closing arguments in the case could come tomorrow, Edwards’s lawyers said in court. Edwards’s oldest daughter, Cate, who had been scheduled to take the witness stand today, also won’t testify.
Edwards attorneys yesterday asked the court to accept as evidence a 2009 letter by the U.S. Justice Department that stated the department won’t prosecute if the Federal Election Commission finds no criminal liability. A witness earlier testified that the FEC didn’t consider the money Edwards used to hide his mistress from the public during his bid for the presidency a campaign donation.
“Due process requires the introduction of this evidence to alleviate any false impression DOJ has sought to create in this trial that its view of the evidence is the view of the United States government as a whole,” Allison O. Van Laningham, an attorney for Edwards, wrote in papers filed yesterday in federal court in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Edwards, 58, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and Democratic presidential contender in 2008, is accused of illegally using almost $1 million in campaign contributions to conceal his affair with Rielle Hunter, an unemployed filmmaker with whom he fathered a child. He says the funds came from friendships with Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a 101-year-old multimillionaire heiress, and Fred Baron, a now-deceased trial attorney.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles denied a request by Edwards to admit a recording of an FEC meeting on July 21, 2011, during which commissioners discussed closing an audit of the Edwards campaign. The commission concluded the payments wouldn’t be reportable as campaign donations, Van Laningham said in court papers.
“Mr. Edwards is entitled to introduce the FEC statements to demonstrate the reasonableness of his view and the view of his staff that the payments by Mr. Baron and Ms. Mellon are not campaign contributions and that any omission was not material,” Van Laningham said in a filing yesterday that included the letter.
Yesterday, Eagles barred evidence of the FEC’s ruling. The issue was too confusing for the jury and it wasn’t clear what evidence had been put before the commission, Eagles said. The ruling came after Edwards’s former campaign treasurer, Lora Haggard, told Eagles outside the presence of the jury that the commission had cleared the payments.
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