What is the purpose of destroying John Edwards?
Why are his prosecutors acting as if they're in Star Trek: Voyager? Title them episode eight, "Ex Post Facto."
They're twisting the meaning of campaign finance law into something never before seen. Then applying this new legal twist to John Edwards' behavior "after the fact." But there's a slight snag since ex post facto laws are unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution says so in Article I, Section 9, Clause 3
It is not the role of prosecutors to create or expand criminal laws. Any expansion must be voted on by the legislative branch of the federal government and not applied retroactively.
You have a constitutionally protected due process right under the fifth and fourteenth amendments to fair notice of what's a crime and what isn't beforehand. Not after the fact. Not ex post facto.
(Latin for "after the fact.")
For example, it wasn't against the law when you did it. But the prosecution team has the law twisted around so now it is. Twisted it. Like a pretzel. Just like Madonna's iconic pose when she contorted her body into one.
Curiously, when the defense tried to make this point, Judge Eagles wouldn't let it fly. She refused to allow their witness, Scott E. Thomas, a former Federal Election Commission Chair for both Democratic and Republican Presidents to testify to this in front of the jury:
"In my view this is a clear-cut case that the payments were not campaign contributions," Thomas told the judge outside the presence of the jury.
That's according to an Associated Press story. We have to depend on AP reports because cameras aren't allowed in federal courtrooms. It's against the law even though in most state courtrooms cameras are allowed.
The Edwards trial shows why we need all federal trials televised. Federal judges have lifetime appointments. They don't stand for re-election like many state court judges do. The public has the right to see for themselves what is going on. How judges are ruling. What evidence is being kept out. Or allowed in.
Instead, the only thing the public gets to see is which tie John Edwards is wearing to court each day. Who cares? This case isn't about sartorial splendor or lack thereof. The courthouse door is literally slammed in our faces. We don't get to go inside. Except for a handful of people who live there. This is a trial of national interest. What ever happened to the public's right to know?
Defense witness Scott E. Thomas, with 20 years of FEC experience, does not stand alone in his view that the alleged payments for the care and feeding of Edward's mistress and child allegedly made by Listerine heiress Rachel Mellon and Dallas lawyer Fred Baron, were not campaign contributions. His view is shared by a lot of lawyers.
If they're not campaign contributions, there is no crime. John Edwards walks. It's over. Or as Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise was wont to say, "Beam me up, Scotty!" Loosely translated, "Get me out of here."
Edwards said he wants to practice poverty law pro bono. If he's convicted of a felony, he loses his law license. The poor could certainly benefit from his well-honed legal skills. There's a lack of lawyers doing pro bono work. Unless they are forced into it. It's a dirty little secret in the legal profession that those outside of it aren't easily privy to.
Edwards ran for the presidency premised on two Americas -- one rich, one poor. As the income gap has widened, what's happened to the middle class? Looks like the son of a mill worker was right. Last autumn, Occupy Movements sprang up all over the nation calling out the wealthy one percenters.
Wouldn't it be better if Edwards were providing free legal backup to those who need it than in prison at a cost of thirty thousand dollars per year to us taxpayers? Maybe that's what certain powerful interests are afraid of.
Senator Edwards is being skewered just like New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was. Spitzer was forced out right before the 2008 Wall Street collapse. If he had still been in office, maybe he could have prevented it or at least helped solve it instead of being banished to his home. But Spitzer, like Edwards, was stepping on too many toes of the one percenters.
How soon we forget many of President Bill Clinton's persecutors were committing adultery themselves with younger women while they were going after him for it. For the sake of their innocent spouses, the guilty names need not be repeated. We all know who they are. President Clinton was a toe-stepper, too.
North Carolina appears to be going back to the future of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, usually reserved for tenth grade English classes. Criminalizing adultery but with a nod to equal rights -- This time the man as well as the woman sporting a scarlet letter on the breast.
To those clamoring for Edward's hide, would an abortion have been preferable? The audacity of Hunter to go through with the pregnancy, some may say, when she could have simply destroyed the evidence of her liaison with Edwards by having a procedure.
Let's be honest here. If Baron and Mellon had financed an abortion for a few hundred bucks instead of giving allegedly a million dollars or so to support a mother and child, would there have been an indictment or federal criminal trial with charges of violating federal campaign finance and reporting laws?
Perhaps if Mellon's and Baron's alleged gifts had not been so lavish, and Rielle and her child had lived in a Motel 6 instead of an upscale hotel, prosecutors wouldn't have been so creative in interpreting the law.
If it gave Bunny Mellon pleasure to give money to John Edwards, money she could afford to give, what is the harm? It's her money. What business is it of the federal government to tell her how she can and can not spend it? Instead, it looks like the feds are ganging up on a 101-year-old widow. Make no mistake: even though she hasn't been indicted, the feds have put her through a lot. Why?
Wealthy men give younger women money all the time. But when the tables are turned and a wealthy woman gifts a younger man, there must be something criminal about it? Please! If the federal government can interfere with Bunny's money and how she spends it, it can do it to anyone.
Would it have been better for taxpayers to have been footing the bill for the unemployed Rielle Hunter and her daughter in welfare benefits? Because if Mellon and Baron had not supported them, the taxpayers would have. John Edwards wasn't going to voluntarily pay. He was denying she was his daughter. He didn't want his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth to find out about his infidelity. What man would?
Why the decision to go after John Edwards? Perhaps with the cancellation of many network soap operas, the Edwards trial fills the void with a ready soap audience waiting. Isn't the fictional CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful with Ridge, Brooke, Steffy and Bill in the afternoon enough? Do we need a reality version, too with John, Rielle, Andrew and Cheri?
Anyone who has ever lost a loved one to a fatal disease as John Edwards family has knows it is not just the loved one who has the disease, the whole family is impacted by it.
The psychological stress of a family having to deal with a long term illness, is no excuse for adultery, but it is understandable how someone could have strayed under these circumstances. When your loved one's condition is terminal, it is not unusual to want some relief, a break from the nightmare your life has become, a way out. To pretend it isn't happening. To seek an escape. Not condoning it. Not saying it's right. But maybe some mercy and counseling is in order instead of a criminal prosecution.
Father Al Lauer, founder and longtime author of One Bread One Body in a meditation for Divine Mercy Sunday last month, was quoted defining mercy as treating someone better than he deserves. Just because John Edwards cheated on his dying wife, doesn't mean he should be locked up.
We as a country need to stop seeking our pound of flesh from John Edwards and move on.
Lonna Saunders is an attorney and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.