John Edwards Lunches With Bunny Mellon

The media seems surprised that John Edwards had lunch yesterday with 100 year old heiress Bunny Mellon, who was a grand jury witness in his soon-to-be criminal case. Edwards' attorney says the visit was purely personal and they didn't discuss his legal situation.

First, there's no secrecy rule imposed on witnesses to a federal grand jury. The secrecy rule pertains to Government prosecutors and their agents. Second, it's not the first time Edwards visited Bunny Mellon since the probe started. He flew up to see her in December, 2009.

According to CBS News today, it ultimately may be quite important for Edwards to show he has had a continuing personal relationship with Bunny Mellon since his campaign ended. Here's why: [More...]

Edwards' legal team argues that the prosecution's theory is unprecedented and wrong. They say there is only one case involving gifts to federal candidates that's even remotely comparable...

....In that case, the FEC said a proposed gift to a federal candidate was illegal because the donor wouldn't have made it if the candidate weren't running for office. Edwards, on the other hand, had long-standing personal relationships with donors Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon that continued after he withdrew from the race. In fact, Edwards had lunch with Mellon on Thursday.

CBS reports the grand jury could return an Indictment on Wednesday. I just checked the PACER entries for the Raleigh division, and it seems indictments were returned May 10, 18 and 25. According to the court's website, grand juries there meet monthly, usually for one or two days. I don't know how many grand juries they have empaneled at a time. If it's four, there could be an indictment the first week in June. If there's only three, it sounds like it wouldn't be until the second week in June.

Having never been a prosecutor, I don't know what the U.S. attorney sends to Main Justice when seeking permission to proceed -- whether it's a draft of the proposed indictment, or just a request to proceed. Since they sound ready to go, it's probable they already drafted the Indictment and all they need are the grand jurors' votes.

If the U.S. Attorney is demanding a plea to a felony count, I suspect John Edwards will fight. I hope he does. Regardless of your opinion of John Edwards and his personal life, he's the sole parent now to two young children. Mistreating a donation as a gift (particularly if you relied on the advice of your legal counsel in doing so), when there is a paucity of court decisions defining the difference between them, seems over the top.

If Edwards is offering to plead to a misdemeanor and probation, the Government should grab his proffered ounce of flesh and forego insisting on a pound. The only reason to demand a felony is to justify the cost of the Government's absurdly lengthy and intrusive investigation.

The Edwards' investigation is iffy on the law and relies on the testimony of a witness, Andrew Young, who has as much if not more baggage than John Edwards (and more credibility problems), albeit for different reasons; a witness who is now 100 years old; and a ditzy (putting it as charitably as possible) paramour.

The only positive thing about this investigation coming to a close is the Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney can now move on and Obama's replacement choice can be confirmed. Both of North Carolina's senators asked to delay confirming Obama's nominee until this probe wrapped up.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I thought the story was supposed to be (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat May 28, 2011 at 01:02:08 AM EST
    that Bunny Mellon was "furious" at Edwards for using her money that way and refused to have anything to do with him.  Guess not, huh.

    The theory here seems to be that any money given under any circumstances by anybody to somebody who's running for office is de facto a campaign expenditure, and especially if it's used to pay a mistress to keep her trap shut.  I'm pretty harsh about politicians playing tricky games with money, but this interpretation seems to me to be beyond the pale.  I bet if he'd used his own money, they'd whack him for making an illegal contribution to his own campaign somehow.

    This whole case sounds to me like an obsessed and politically motivated prosecution.

    When (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by lentinel on Sat May 28, 2011 at 12:51:48 PM EST
    I first saw Edwards, I took an immediate dislike to h!m.
    The next person on the political scene to whom I had a similar reaction is Obama.

    They projected that certain look that says, "I"m somebody. You must be thrilled to be around me as I enter the room. I know I'm thrilled to be around me."

    The truly great people I have seen had the exact opposite aura.
    People like Malcolm.

    To me, Edwards was always first and (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by oculus on Sat May 28, 2011 at 02:46:29 PM EST
    foremost a smarmy plaintiffs' lawyer.  But I do love this headline.  

    To me (none / 0) (#7)
    by sj on Sun May 29, 2011 at 02:04:56 PM EST
    I loved that he was a smarmy plaintiffs' lawyer.  It was one of the reasons I initially supported him.  Also, because I see the Two Americas he was the only one to talk about.

    representing injured people (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Mon May 30, 2011 at 08:55:38 PM EST
    makes one smarmy? Many of his cases were on behalf of women in labor who suffered botched deliveries resulting in cerebral palsy to their newborns.

    He represented a client who had suffered permanent brain and nerve damage after a doctor prescribed an overdose of antabuse. And three clients who got AIDS through tainted blood products. And then there's  this one:

    The biggest case of his legal career was a 1997 product liability lawsuit against Sta-Rite, the manufacturer of a defective pool drain cover. The case involved Valerie Lakey a three-year-old girl[13] who was disemboweled by the suction power of the pool drain pump when she sat on an open pool drain whose protective cover other children at the pool had removed, after the swim club had failed to install the cover properly. Despite 12 prior suits with similar claims, Sta-Rite continued to make and sell drain covers lacking warnings. Sta-Rite protested that an additional warning would have made no difference because the pool owners already knew the importance of keeping the cover secured.

    The company settled for the $25 million while the jury was deliberating additional punitive damages, rather than risk losing an appeal. For their part in this case, Edwards and law partner David Kirby earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America's national award for public service.[12] The family said that they hired Edwards over other attorneys because he alone had offered to accept a smaller percentage as fee unless the award was unexpectedly high, while all of the other lawyers they spoke with said they required the full one-third fee.

    These sick and injured people don't have money for lawyers. The lawyers take the cases on a contingent basis for a percentage of the amount awarded. If they lose, they get nothing, and since the lawyer in these cases usually fronts the costs for experts, etc., a loss means a big hole in their pockets.


    You misunderstand (none / 0) (#10)
    by sj on Tue May 31, 2011 at 02:34:27 PM EST
    I was echoing the description.  I should probably have used quotes to so indicate.  I deeply appreciate the work he was doing and agree completely with everything you just said.  

    As I said, it was one of reasons he was my first choice.  


    J was replying to my screed. (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Tue May 31, 2011 at 05:00:14 PM EST
    oh (none / 0) (#12)
    by sj on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 09:53:16 AM EST

    You must not have heard them argue, (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Sun May 29, 2011 at 11:01:11 PM EST
    it's not about the money, as often as I have!

    Frankly, in light of the decision reported today (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Fri May 27, 2011 at 09:14:11 PM EST
    in a different criminal case, also involving campaign contibutions, dismissing the case because of Citizens United, I'd say Edwards has a further reason to fight.  (I know, the decision reported today is about corporate donations, but the widening scope of Citizens United has been wiping out every limit on campaign contributions it encounters.

    The factof the matter is that, when it comes to "white collar", Obama's DoJ is prosecuting those people who could harm him (or constitute a power base independent of him) politically:  Edwards and Blago, to name two.  Other, clear-as-day cases don't get prosecuted when the putative defendant can't touch Obama, Clarence Thomas and his "forgetting" $600k or so of income on his disclosure statements being Exhibit A.

    Now you're talkin'... (none / 0) (#2)
    by desertswine on Fri May 27, 2011 at 09:41:08 PM EST
    some serious money...  Bunny Mellon