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John Edwards' defense begins presenting case

John Edwards' defense team began presenting its case on Monday with the nuts and bolts of campaign finance law.

May 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
John Edwards' defense team began presenting its case on Monday in the campaign corruption trial with the nuts and bolts of campaign finance law.

It was a contrast to the weeks of testimony about Edwards' affair with his pregnant mistress and the money used to cover it up.

Prosecutors argue that almost $1 million from two wealthy campaign donors were used illegally to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter. The former presidential hopeful pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to campaign finance violations.

Defense attorneys are attacking the foundation of the prosecution's argument that the money should be considered an illegal campaign contribution intended to influence the outcome of an election.

But even the federal government was split on that, the defense argues: The Federal Election Commission previously decided that the money was not a campaign contribution. In court Monday, a prosecutor from the Department of Justice called that decision irrelevant to their criminal case and argued against the jury being able to hear about it.

Lora Haggard, who was in charge of campaign finance compliance for Edwards, testified that FEC auditors said the hush money he received from the donors did not need to reported.

She also said Edwards was never involved in formulating, filling out or filing campaign finance reports that were sent to the FEC. In the sixth count of his indictment, Edwards is accused of causing his campaign to file a false report through deceit.

"We never gave him a report to review," Haggard said. "He had no input."

The defense had intended to call former FEC chairman Scott Thomas as their first witness, but prosecutors objected to his potential expert testimony on the FEC's decision about the money. A hearing is scheduled for later in the day over whether to limit Thomas' testimony.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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