By Wade Rawlins
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Lawyers for former senator John Edwards will argue on Friday that federal prosecutors failed to make the case that he violated campaign finance laws during his failed 2008 presidential bid.
A day after prosecutors wrapped up their case based on nearly three weeks of testimony from two dozen witnesses, Edwards' attorneys will ask the judge presiding over the case to dismiss the charges.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles gave jurors a long weekend break after the government rested its case on Thursday, telling them the case will resume in Greensboro on Monday with any evidence the defense chooses to present.
Eagles said she would rule Friday on the defense motion to dismiss the charges that Edwards, 58, solicited more than $900,000 in illegal campaign contributions from two wealthy supporters in an effort to conceal his pregnant mistress from the media and voters.
The government says the candidate knew his bid for the presidency would be doomed if the affair was exposed.
Edwards faces potential prison time and a fine if convicted of any of six counts, including conspiring to solicit the money, accepting more than the $2,300 allowed from any one donor and failing to report the payments as contributions.
The defense says Edwards, who has pleaded not guilty, did not seek or receive any of the money. His lawyers argue the payments were meant to shield the affair from his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, and not to influence the election, and thus should not be characterized as campaign contributions.
On Thursday, the final day of the prosecution's presentation, they played a video in which the married politician said he wanted to tell the truth about his affair with Rielle Hunter. But Edwards lied to ABC "Nightline" reporter Bob Woodruff when he denied paternity of a child he later admitted having fathered with Hunter.
The one-term senator for North Carolina said he did not know about money used to hide his mistress as he was seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination - the same stance he has maintained during his trial on campaign finance charges.
"Nothing has been done at my request," he told Woodruff in the interview. "I had nothing to do with any money being paid."
Through 14 days of testimony, former campaign workers and supporters have painted an unflattering portrait of the two-time presidential hopeful who was the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004.
Witnesses revealed tawdry details of the affair that contributed to Edwards' political downfall. They said he brushed them off, sometimes crudely, when they voiced concerns about Hunter's interactions with Edwards on the campaign trail.
But the former candidate's moral lapses are not at the heart of the case. To get a conviction, prosecutors must prove Edwards knowingly and willfully violated the law.
(Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Anthony Boadle)