John Edwards Trial: First Defense Witnesses

John Edwards will begin presenting his defense Monday. The Court has published the list of witnesses for the day, in no particular order. They include:

  • Scott Thomas (Former FEC Commissioner and proposed expert witness)
  • Lora Haggard: One of his campaign's finance officers from Georgia and Treasurer for the Center for Promise and Opportunity Foundation (to which Bunny Mellon contributed millions before even met Rielle Hunter).
  • Tim Reilly
  • Scott McLean: Builder of Andrew Young's House
    Harrison Hickman: Friend and Adviser to Edwards, a pollster from MD
  • Robert Lester
  • Wade Smith: Edwards' lawyer who had discussions with Mellon's lawyer Alexander Forger

Where is Rielle Hunter these days? Out and about with daughter Frances Quinn.[More...]

Edwards' full list of potential witnesses, filed a few weeks before trial, is here.

Edwards' daughter Cate is on the list, as is Lisa Blue Baron, Fred Baron's widow, but there's no indication yet as to whether either will be called. I think the Government is assuming Cate will be called, and that's the reason it filed a jury instruction on "sympathy" a few days ago.

It's not clear if the Judge finally agreed to allow Edwards' expert witness testify or whether the Government and Edwards reached an agreement on his testimony -- or whether they will fight about it Monday morning. While I can't find any court ruling on the Government's objection, Edwards did pare down his proposed expert witness instruction last week. It could be the Government and Edwards reached an agreement limiting the scope of the expert's testimony.

Edwards wants his expert to testify that a reasonable person who was a candidate in 2007 and 2008 would not have known that the expenditure by one third-party to cover the expenses of another third-party would have either been considered a campaign contribution or the payment of the candidate’s own personal expenses. That would be consistent with Edwards' good faith defense and negate that his conduct was "willful." From Edwards' proposed jury instructions (May 7 version:)

One factor for you to consider in deciding whether Mr. Edwards "knowingly and willfully" broke the law is whether the requirements of the law were vague or highly debatable. The more uncertain or debatable a law may be, the more difficult it may be to know whether certain conduct may violate the law. Sometimes the applicability of a law may be very clear in some instances, but not in others.

Here, for example, everyone agrees that a check written by Ms. Mellon or Mr. Baron to the John Edwards for President campaign during the election cycle would have been a campaign contribution. But Mr. Edwards argues that it was uncertain Ms. Mellon and Mr. Baron to persons other than Mr. Edwards or his campaign to cover the expenses of Ms. Hunter and the Youngs during Ms. Hunter's pregnancy would be considered campaign contributions to Mr. Edwards' campaign.

If the law is so uncertain or highly debatable that reasonable persons could disagree as to whether those payment would be regulated as a campaign contribution, then Mr. Edwards could not knowingly and willfully violate the law by accepting or failing to report such a payment as a campaign contribution and you must find him "Not Guilty."

I wonder if John Edwards is feeling confident today, or whether he's sorry he turned down the Government's reported pre-indictment offer to plead to a felony with no jail time or a misdemeanor and six months. I can't imagine he had any idea during pre-indictment negotiations that the court would allow so much damaging testimony about the personal details of his marriage and affair, under the theory it was evidence of his state of mind and intent.

And what if he is convicted, but wins on appeal, with the appeals court ruling the judge erred in allowing the testimony? It's already been spread globally. The damage will never be repaired.

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