Jury to reconvene in ex-Senator Edwards' federal trial

Reuters News
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Posted: May 21, 2012 8:29 AM
Jury to reconvene in ex-Senator Edwards' federal trial

By Colleen Jenkins

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Jurors were set to resume deliberations on Monday in the federal campaign finance case against former U.S. Senator John Edwards, who is accused of using campaign funds to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the presidency.

A jury of eight men and four women in Greensboro, North Carolina, considered the case for about 5 1/2 hours on Friday before breaking for the weekend.

They must reach a unanimous verdict to convict Edwards, a two-time presidential candidate and the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee, on any of the six felony counts he faces.

Jurors have nearly four weeks of testimony to weigh as they decide whether Edwards, 58, coordinated a coverup aimed at keeping voters from learning of his extramarital affair while he sought the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Prosecutors said the scheme resulted in more than $900,000 from two supporters to be secretly funneled to Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, and his aide, Andrew Young, who during the campaign falsely declared paternity of the baby Edwards fathered.

The Federal Election Campaign Act states that excess contributions are illegal if they are made for the purpose of influencing an election for federal office.

Edwards' attorneys acknowledged that the former senator from North Carolina knew about the $2,300 limit on contributions from individuals.

But they argued that the payments from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and trial lawyer Fred Baron were private gifts - not political contributions - made to support Hunter and to prevent Edwards' cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, from learning he had fathered a child with his mistress.

The charges against John Edwards include 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; Additional reporting by Wade Rawlins)