John Edwards: Government's Final Witnesses
The Government will rest its case against John Edwards today. According to the Charlotte Observer, the final three witnesses will be law enforcement officers. According to another account, one of the final witnesses will be Leo H. Hindery, Jr., a Democratic power player and former cable magnate who became the Edwards campaign's senior economic policy advisor in June, 2007. Hindery switched his support to Obama after Edwards dropped out,
What would he testify to? Possibly that Edwards' was interested in being Attorney General if Obama won the election. From Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster): [More...]
Having been rebuffed on the notion of teaming up with Obama after Iowa, he once again dispatched Leo Hindery to make a revised offer.
“John will settle for attorney general,” Hindery emailed Tom Daschle. Daschle shook his head. How desperate is this guy?
“Leo, this isn’t good for John,” Daschle replied. “This is ridiculous. It’s going to be ambassador to Zimbabwe next.”
Daschle warned Hindery that this new offer, like the last one, was sure to be rejected. And it was. When Obama heard about the suggested quid pro quo, he was incredulous. That’s crazy, he told Axelrod. If I were willing to make a deal like that, I shouldn’t be president!
I don't see the relevance of the testimony, since the campaign finance law doesn't apply to one seeking a cabinet position, I also don't see any e-mails of either Hindery or Daschle on the Government's exhibit list, so I'm neither convinced he will be a witness nor that this would be the subject of his testimony.
[Added: Hindery did testify, and the subject was indeed his reaching out to Daschle for Edwards to be Obama's running mate, and later, reaching out to both Obama and Hillary to be named Attorney General. Hindery said Edwards ultimate goal was to be named to the Supreme Court.]
Wade Smith was one of John Edwards lawyers and the Government forced him off the case by saying it would call him as a witness. It never called him. Instead, it asked Bunny Mellon's lawyer to testify as to what Wade said. So the Government deprived Edwards of one of his counsel of choice, who knew him the best, for nothing. Nice.
On Hindery: Andrew Young thanks him for his "advice and friendship" in the acknowledgement section of the his book, The Politician.
On Jennifer Palmieri's testimony yesterday: According to the News and Record reporter who has been attending the trial, Palmieri did say a few things that could help the defense. At one point, she was asked by the prosecutor what she thought of Andrew Young. She took some direct shots at his credibility:
Palmieri: "I didn't find him particularly reliable. You couldn't take what he had to say at face value.
"He seemed insincere to me. ... He would exaggerate his experiences."
She also made a statement that supports Edwards' contention he was trying to keep the media at bay out of concern for his wife and family rather than to enhance his election chances:
"This was about protecting her and her family."
Added: As to the law enforcement officer testimony, the Government called two FBI agents, one who testified about phone records and one who showed the jury the payments made by Fred Baron.
It is somewhat surprising to me that the Government didn't call financial investigators or financial or election law experts. Maybe they couldn't find an election law expert, since its theory of criminal liability on the campaign contributions is so unprecedented.
When the Government rests, the defense will make a motion for judgment of acquittal. If the case survives that motion, the defense will begin its case. It's highly unlikely Edwards will testify. I also don't think Team Edwards will call Rielle Hunter. Even if they could control her on direct examination, cross examination by the Government could turn out to be a nightmare. And if the jury thinks as little of her as does the rest of the country, she'd could hurt Edwards' case rather than help it, no matter what she said.
The one person I think the defense will call is Lisa Blue Baron. She's a highly accomplished trial lawyer, a psychologist and a jury consultant. She might be able to save the day for Edwards all on her own. The Government won't intimidate her and is unlikely to trip her up. She probably has a lot to say to correct the impression the jury has gotten so far of Fred Baron. She might be very convincing if her testimony is that she, Fred, and John were concerned not with saving his campaign, but with preventing the media from disclosing more details of the affair from an already distraught and dying Elizabeth. She might say Baron (as he typically did, according to those who knew him) acted out of compassion and a sense of what's right. Even Andrew Young wrote in his book that Fred Baron never believed that John, rather than Andrew, was the father of Rielle's child until mid-2008. Fred gave numerous interviews before he died insisting that he had never discussed the affair with John.
Since this is a criminal case, the jury doesn't get to decide which side it believes more -- that's a preponderance of the evidence standard. It must believe the Government's version, which is based on testimony of the compromised Andrew and Cheri Young, over witnesses like Lisa Blue Baron and Alex Forger (especially as to the intent of Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon in providing the money) beyond a reasonable doubt.
That said, I think it will be the Judge who ends up affecting the verdict the most. She's the final arbiter on the jury instructions and will choose between the competing versions submitted by the parties. This will be particularly important when it comes to the instruction on the meaning of a campaign contribution. She will also make the call as to whether Edwards can call his FEC experts to testify as to whether a candidate should know that Baron and Bunny's money were or were not campaign contributions. I'm skeptical she'll allow them to testify.
Best case scenario: The judge tosses the charges based on the defense motion for Judgment of Acquittal -- after making a legal determination that even if everything the Government witnesses testified to was accurate, the Government hasn't proven a crime.
I think America has pilloried and taken more pounds of flesh from John Edwards and the memory of Elizabeth than any case I recall in recent memory. I don't think it's personal. It's how prosecutors view things. Which is probably why I'm a defense lawyer. I think my lens is is far more focused on justice.
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