POLITICS

John Edwards defence will not call former candidate, mistress to testify at corruption trial

05/16/2012 11:48 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 05:12 EDT
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Attorneys for John Edwards expect to rest their case Wednesday without calling the two-time U.S. presidential candidate or his former mistress to the witness stand.

Prosecutors have tried to convince a jury that Edwards masterminded a conspiracy to use nearly $1 million secretly provided by two wealthy donors to help hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.

Many people watching the case believed Edwards would testify so the jury could hear directly from the former U.S. senator and trial lawyer, who had a reputation for his ability to sway jurors. But putting Edwards on the stand would have exposed him to withering cross-examination.

Closing arguments could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts including conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, accepting contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits and causing his campaign to file a false financial disclosure report.

He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

Edwards has made no public statements since October, following a pre-trial hearing where a judge refused to throw out the criminal case against him.

Prosecutors have shown that two members of Edwards' inner circle, campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and aide Andrew Young, engaged in a yearlong effort to hide the married Edwards' mistress from the media. Young falsely claimed paternity of his boss' baby and received $725,000 in secret checks from an elderly heiress, using some of the money to care for Hunter.

Baron provided Young and Hunter with more than $400,000 in cash, luxury hotels, private jets and a $20,000-a-month rental mansion in Santa Barbara, California.

However no witness said Edwards knew he was violating campaign finance laws, a key element of criminal intent the government must prove to win a conviction.

After years of denials, Edwards admitted fathering his Hunter's baby in January 2010, shortly after agreeing to pay child support.

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December 2010.

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Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck