Closing arguments were delivered in the John Edwards corruption trial on Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., with prosecutors telling the jury that Edwards knew exactly what he was doing in 2008 when in using nearly $1 million in campaign funds to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter, and lawyers for the former presidential candidate arguing that while he may have been a "bad husband," he did not violate any federal laws in doing so.
"John was a bad husband," Edwards' lawyer Abbe Lowell said. "But there is not the remotest chance that John did or intended to violate the law."
"If what John did was a crime," Lowell added, "we'd better build a lot more court rooms, hire a lot more prosecutors and build a lot more jails."
Edwards faces six criminal counts—conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Hunter during the 2008 presidential election. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Jurors are expected to begin their deliberations on Friday.
"Campaign finance laws are designed to bring the two Americas together at election time," prosecutor Bobby Higdon said, echoing an old Edwards stump speech about two Americas. "John Edwards forgot his own rhetoric. He had no problem dividing the two Americas when it served his own purpose."
Higdon recalled Edwards' speech in 2006 announcing his run for president. "He wanted to be our leader," Higdon said. "He asked for our vote. He had a popular wife and beautiful family, and on that day, the seeds of his destruction were sown."
"The whole scheme was cooked up to support John Edwards' political ambitions," Higdon said of the 2008 coverup. (Edwards later admitted his affair with Hunter.)
Lowell argued that the money used to hide Hunter was a personal donation and that the prosecution is trying to use the salacious details of the affair to sway the jury.
"John Edwards has confessed his sins," Lowell said. "He will serve a life sentence for those. But he has pleaded not guilty to violating the law."
Lowell argued that campaign finance laws do not govern money given from one third party to another third party--in this case, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to Edwards' former aide Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri Young--for personal expenses, even if those personal expenses are to hide a mistress.
"If it is not a contribution for someone to pay the transportation or living expenses of campaign staffers, then how in the world can that be true for a mistress?" Lowell asked the jurors, "some of whom were nodding as he made his argument," according to the Associated Press.
Young's tell-all book about the affair was used by the defense on Thursday to attack his credibility.
"He needs a conviction for his next chapter in his next book," Lowell said.
And the Youngs' use of part of Mellon's donation to finance their dream home was fodder for the defense, too.
"[They] would shame Bonnie and Clyde," Lowell said.
The defense rested its case on Wednesday without calling either Edwards or Hunter, who lives in Charlotte with his now four-year-old love child, to testify.
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