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John Edwards Trial: Jury Deliberating After Nearly Four Weeks Of Testimony

By MICHAEL BIESECKER 05/18/12 05:15 PM ET AP

John Edwards Trial

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A jury deliberated for about five hours Friday in John Edwards' campaign corruption trial involving money from wealthy donors that was used to hide his pregnant mistress during his 2008 White House bid. Talks will resume Monday, but the jury has already made several requests for evidence and office supplies, a sign they may be settling in for detailed discussions.

Jurors heard about 17 days of testimony, a lot of it focusing on the details of the lurid sex scandal between the Democratic candidate, his mistress Rielle Hunter and his once-trusted aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed he was the father of his boss's baby. But they also reviewed phone and financial records from a period of about two years.

Edwards is charged with six criminal counts including conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, accepting contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits, and causing his campaign to file a false financial disclosure report. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

Jurors asked for eight exhibits and all of the notes from a wealthy heiress who provided about half of the money at issue. They also wanted a transcript of the heiress' lawyer's testimony, but the judge told them to rely on their memory. They said they need markers and a board to write on, too.

Jurors will have to weigh whether to believe Edwards, who argued that he didn't knowingly break the law, or his aide, Andrew Young, who said Edwards recruited him to solicit secret donations in excess of the legal limit for campaign contributions, then $2,300.

The choice before them comes down to choosing which liar to believe.

Young, the prosecution's star witness, falsely claimed paternity of his boss's baby in December 2007, after tabloid reporters tracked a visibly pregnant Hunter to a doctor's appointment.

Edwards repeatedly denied having a relationship with Hunter, only to go on national television in August 2008 to admit having a brief affair with Hunter but that it was physically impossible he was the father of her baby girl. In fact, his relationship with Hunter had lasted more than a year. A recording of that interview was played for the jury last week as the prosecution rested its case.

The bulk of the alleged illegal campaign contributions flowed to Young, including $725,000 in checks from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, who is now 101 years old. Young spent some of the money to care for Hunter, but financial records introduced at the trial showed the aide siphoned off most of the money to help build his family's $1.6 million dream home near Chapel Hill.

Another $400,000 in cash, luxury hotels, private jets rides and a $20,000-a-month rental mansion in Santa Barbara, Calif., were also provided by wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron to help cover up the affair. Baron served as Edwards' campaign finance chairman.

Prosecutors say Edwards knew about the money and directed the cover-up, showing the jury phone records indicating he was in constant contact with Hunter and Young while they were in hiding.

The defense countered that it is Young who should be on trial, not Edwards, accusing the aide of using Edwards' name without his knowledge to bamboozle Mellon out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use. Young received immunity from prosecutors.

During closing arguments Thursday, lead defense lawyer Abbe Lowell admitted that Edwards had lied to his wife and the American people. But his client didn't violate federal campaign finance regulations, Lowell said.

"This is a case that should define the difference between a wrong and a crime ... between a sin and a felony," Lowell told the jury. "John Edwards has confessed his sins. He will serve a life sentence for those. But he has pleaded not guilty to violating the law."

The eight-man, four-woman jury includes a retired firefighter, a plumber as well as a corporate vice president and retired accountant. One juror recounted handing out pamphlets supporting Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008, while another said he had put out signs supporting Republican candidates.

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Associated Press writer Allen Reed contributed to this report.

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Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mbieseck

Here is some background on Edwards:
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  • Love At First Sight?

    "And when they left, my friend went over and asked Tony if that was John Edwards, and he said yes. And my friend turned to me and said, 'See, I told you it was John Edwards.' And then I came over to the table, and I said, 'I can't believe that was John Edwards; he's so hot. He's really got it going on. He's got something unusual about him, and I never would have recognized him.' And Tony said, 'Oh, my God, you should have come over and told him that. He would have loved to have heard that.'"

  • An Extraordinary Night

    "We had an extraordinary night, and I did know that this was unlike anything either of us had ever experienced. And as we have all learned, that was accurate! [laughs] He in fact did say to me the first night, 'Falling in love with you could really [screw] up my plans for becoming President.' And of course I said, 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.'"

  • The Oddest Connection He Had Ever Felt

    "Well, what Johnny later told me was, he went to dinner and could not stop thinking about me, like, 'Who was that woman, and why didn't I go over and talk to her?' ... So when he walked around the corner and saw me standing there, he lit up like a Christmas tree. And I thought his reaction when he saw me was just so cute. I mean, he looked like a little kid at Christmas. And I just uttered to him, 'You're so hot.' And he said, 'Why, thank you!' And he almost jumped into my arms. Literally. And um, that's how we met. On the corner of 61st and Park Avenue."

  • 'I Had To Sleep With Him'

    "I used to make a joke that I could have helped save the world, but I had to sleep with him. You know? It was kind of like that."

  • Falling In Love

    "I fell in love with Johnny ... He called me the next day. We talked on the phone almost every night for four hours. We met on February 21. On February 25—on the phone, from Davenport, Iowa—I fell in love with him. Head over heels in love. I was a goner."

  • Here's ... Johnny!

    "Isn't that funny? You know, when I first met him, the first week of our relationship, I said to him, 'For some reason I cannot call you John, it doesn't come out. Could I call you Johnny?' And he said, 'That's my name.' And I didn't know that, but that's his actual birth name."

  • Knight In Shining Armor?

    "I had this thing in my head like a lot of women, where you want your man to stand up on a cliff and scream, 'I LOVE HER.' You know, the knight in shining armor. And that wasn't what was going on."

  • On Her Relationship Status

    "I am not engaged."

  • Why She's Talking Now

    "I feel comfortable talking now, because Johnny went public and made a statement admitting paternity. I didn't feel like I could ever speak until he did that. Because had I spoken, I would have emasculated him. And I could not emasculate him. Also, it is not my desire to teach my daughter that when Mommy's upset with Daddy, you take matters into your own hands and fix Daddy's mistakes. Which I view as one of the biggest problems in all female-and-male relationships."

  • Not A Gold Digger

    "I mean, just for starters, I never 'hit on' Johnny. I'm not a predator, I'm not a gold digger, I'm not the stalker. I didn't have any power in that way in our relationship. He held all the power."

  • 'The Wrath Of Elizabeth Is A Mighty Wrath'

    "And I believe what happened in his marriage is, he could not go to his wife and say, 'We have an issue.' Because he would be pummeled. So he had a huge fear. Most of his mistakes or errors in judgment were because of his fear of the wrath of Elizabeth. He's allowed himself to be pushed into a lot of things that he wouldn't normally do because of Elizabeth's story line. And the spin that she wants to put out there. He was emasculated. And you know, the wrath of Elizabeth is a mighty wrath."

  • 'I Was A Bit Promiscuous'

    "I was never, as it's been reported, a drug addict. The word addiction means inability to stop. I stopped doing drugs in my twenties. As for being promiscuous, I would say that I was a bit promiscuous for about six months. But it was because I was partying, and there were a lot of very good-looking available 20-year-old men around that you'd be partying with, and there was a lot of, you know, hooking up going on."

  • A Toxic Relationship

    "[Elizabeth] was in denial about a lot of facts. And I say she was in denial because, you know, their relationship has been dysfunctional and toxic and awful for many, many years. And she was aware of, um, problems and chose to ignore them."

  • 'I Don't Really Believe He Was A Politician'

    "Well, I don't really believe he was a politician. I believe his ego and ambition drove him to that field. I believe he's more aligned with being a humanitarian. That suits his true nature. Just like I wasn't a mistress. You know, I'm not a mistress, but I played the role? I believe he played the role of a politician. It's not who he is. Being a politician was a path of transformation for him, I believe. It's not really what he was put on the planet to do."

  • Not A 'Home Wrecker'

    "And, well, first of all, infidelity doesn't happen in healthy marriages. The break in the marriage happens before the infidelity. And that break happened, you know, two and a half decades before I got there. So the home was wrecked already. I was not the Home Wrecker."

  • Naming Frances Quinn Hunter

    "Her name is Frances Quinn Hunter, and I love the name Frances. Johnny wasn't over the moon about Frances. So I was coming up with names, and Quinn is a name that I loved, and that was the only name that he thought was cool. And so I named her Quinn because Daddy really liked it."

  • Was Andrew Young In Love With Edwards?

    "Andrew [Young] was in love with Johnny...In love with him. Beyond. And I believe he loved Johnny more than he loved Cheri. So Johnny was the third person in their relationship. And I'm sure she hates Johnny, because Andrew took a lot of obvious actions that were for Johnny and not for Cheri. But Cheri went along with them. And they both have a way of spinning things. But a lot of their motivation is money."

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Filed by Luke Johnson  |