Arguments due in ex-US Senator Edwards' campaign finance case

Reuters News

5/18/2012 3:53:16 PM - Reuters News

By Colleen Jenkins

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Attorneys are scheduled to give their closing arguments on Thursday in former U.S. Senator John Edwards' federal campaign finance trial on charges he accepted excessive political funds to conceal his extramarital affair while he ran for president.

The trial is winding down after 3 1/2 weeks of testimony in a case that legal experts have said could expand the scope of what qualifies as campaign contributions.

Edwards' defense wrapped up its case in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Wednesday. The legal team for the two-time presidential hopeful and the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004 called seven witnesses in an effort to poke holes in the prosecution.

Defense attorneys considered putting Edwards, his ex-mistress and his oldest daughter on the stand, but in the end opted against having any of the three testify.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said closing arguments and jury instructions would be heard on Thursday, which means jurors likely will begin deliberating on Friday.

The jury must decide if Edwards, 58, orchestrated a cover-up to keep voters from learning of his pregnant mistress during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Prosecutors say the plot resulted in more than $900,000 from two wealthy donors being secretly funneled to Rielle Hunter and Edwards' aide Andrew Young, who during the campaign falsely admitted paternity for the baby Edwards had fathered.

The defense says Edwards, who maintains his innocence, did not seek or accept the money. They say the payments were personal gifts meant to keep the affair and Hunter's pregnancy concealed from Edwards' cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth.

The former senator for North Carolina faces a total of six counts on charges including conspiring to solicit the money, receiving more than the $2,300 allowed from any one donor and failing to report the payments as contributions.

Each count carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(Reporting By Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Vicki Allen)