The Edwards trial ended with a whimper instead of a bang, with the defense declining to call either John Edwards, Cate Edwards or ex-mistress Rielle Hunter. That tactic may end up in resulting in an acquittal of John Edwards as the defense focused primarily on campaign finance laws and violations.
The prosecution with all of its baby mama drama, sex tapes, lying, cheating and stealing saga may have left out a key element of its case. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Edwards knowingly chose to violate the federal campaign laws and knew he was violating them. Even the government’s star witness, Andrew Young, testified that Edwards was at a meeting with his lawyers and advised Young that the donations by the benefactors totaling $1 million were not campaign donations. Bunny Mellon knew the money was being used for a mistress. And Fred Baron directly gave his money to the Youngs and Hunter for living expenses.
The key two pieces of evidence that may save Edwards from jail rests on a Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) memo dated July, 2011 that found the $1 million donations did not violate campaign reporting laws. The second document is a Justice Department Election Crimes Board opinion that states for criminal violations to occur, the act must be clear and bear no doubt that the FEC considers the conduct a Federal Election Campaign Act offense.
There is no testimony that Edwards knew of the donations aside from the testimony of Andrew Young who claims that Edwards was present during meetings with Fred Baron discussing the donations. But, Young has his own credibility issues. He once lied and stated the baby was his child. There is also evidence that Young tried to sell the sex tape of Edwards and Hunter. Young almost belongs in the same despicable category as Edwards.
The jury, much to the defense’s dismay, will be instructed that any money or gift used for the purpose and not the sole purpose of influencing any election for federal office must be reported, even if part of the money was to hide a mistress from a wife’s knowledge. If the FEC exonerated Edwards of federal campaign donation violations, as the defense will argue, then how can a jury convict Edwards? That is the question for the jury to decide. The jury begins its deliberations on Friday, May 18.
For all of Edwards’ despicable drama, in the eyes of the public, he may not deserve an acquittal. But justice demands that he be acquitted of these charges based on the Government’s evidence and reasonable doubt of it.
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.