John Edwards, a once prominent trial lawyer, former US Senator, Democratic Presidential candidate and former 2004 Democratic Vice- Presidential candidate is now reduced to nothing more than sex, lies and videotapes. Edwards is on trial for his alleged federal campaign violations in an elaborate scheme to hide money being floated to Rielle Hunter, his mistress and mother of his child.
Many prominent lawyers and legal analysts agree that the Government’s case is a bit of a stretch of campaign law violations. Edwards faces 6 counts of receiving illegal campaign funds, lying on campaign statements and willfully violating the law. He faces 30 years in jail and over $1 million in fines, if convicted. The final analysis is in the jury’s verdict.
The government had offered Edwards a plea deal whereby he could keep his law license and serve a minimal time in jail. That should tell us something about the strength or should I say, weakness of the Government’s case. The case has already cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money to pursue. Most of the prosecution’s evidence has been focused on the sex life of John Edwards, his lies to keep his extramarital sex life a secret and videotapes of it. It would make for a great made for TV movie and may still be the focus on one at a later time.
Many think Edwards should be jailed for cheating on his wife of 25 years while she was dying of breast cancer, for having the affair while he was running for President of the United States, for lying and covering up about the affair and for later lying about the paternity of the child. None of those are crimes and Edwards cannot be jailed for doing any of those things. So why is the US government spending so much time and money focusing on these facts, if they will not lead to a conviction?
The Government is making Edwards out to be a bad boy of campaign laws. Everyone who has remotely followed his travails knows he’s not an individual to be trusted. And I hope for his sake that he does not take the stand. After all his lies upon lies, I doubt if anyone on the jury will believe a word that comes out of his mouth. Yet, the Government must prove that Edwards knowingly violated the law and intended to do so. Historically, according to experts, similar federal campaign cases have not ended up in a criminal court.
The Edwards trial also has an interesting sub plot within the main plot of campaign violations. It shows how a once successful lawyer and politician thought so lowly of women, including his wife, his mistress, his daughters and the wife of his campaign aide. He used and abused all of these women in his sex, lies and videotape debacle. He thought so little of his wife of 25 years and mother of his children that he would cheat on her while she was fighting for her life with breast cancer. It was a fight that she ultimately lost in 2010 after having to spend her precious time campaigning with her husband.
After almost literally being caught with his pants down, Edwards refused to do the honorable thing and confess his sins. That would have meant that he would have to suspend and end his campaign for the Presidency. Doing so, he would have avoided his present legal predicament. Instead he allegedly engaged in an elaborate hide the baby mama drama scheme, involving his campaign aide, Andrew Young and wife, Cheri, to hide Hunter.
Once the baby became known, Edwards refused to honor her as his daughter, saying the baby wasn’t his child. At this low point, it became a scene for Maury Povich’s TV show on “You Are the Baby’s Father” segment. Edwards allegedly engaged campaign aide, Andrew Young to admit paternity. Yet, in the final analysis, the truth came out and Edwards’ legal issues ensued.
Is any of this against the law? That’s the issue facing the jury. The jury will need to decide if the money that was used to hide Edwards’ mistress was a gift or a campaign contribution. The issue surrounds whether money used from millionaire “Bunny” Mellon in the amount of $725,000 and monies given by Fred Baron were for campaign purposes or to hide the baby mama drama. A lawyer for 101 year old Bunny Mellon testified it was a gift for Edwards. The prosecution must also prove that Edwards knowingly violated the law and intended to violate the law.
The trial enters its third week with many more to go.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.