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Edwards Defense Wraps Up in Trial Over Campaign Funds

John Edwards wasn’t called to the witness stand by his lawyers before they rested their defense at the former presidential candidate’s trial over alleged campaign-donation violations.

Edwards’s oldest daughter, Cate, who had been scheduled to take the witness stand yesterday, also didn’t testify. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today in the trial in Greensboro, North Carolina.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, who is presiding over the case, refused to let Edwards introduce as evidence a 2009 letter by the U.S. Justice Department that stated the department won’t prosecute if the Federal Election Commission finds no criminal liability. Edwards’s former campaign treasurer earlier told the judge that the FEC concluded that the money Edwards used for his mistress during his bid for the presidency wasn’t a campaign donation.

“Due process requires the introduction of this evidence to alleviate any false impression DOJ has sought to create in this trial that its view of the evidence is the view of the United States government as a whole,” Allison O. Van Laningham, an attorney for Edwards, wrote in papers filed May 15.

Edwards, 58, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and Democratic presidential contender in 2008, is accused of illegally using almost $1 million in campaign contributions to conceal his affair with Rielle Hunter, an unemployed filmmaker with whom he fathered a child. He says the funds came from friendships with Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a 101-year-old multimillionaire heiress, and Fred Baron, a now-deceased trial attorney.

Audit Discussion

Eagles also denied a request by the defense to admit a recording of an FEC meeting on July 21, 2011, during which commissioners discussed closing an audit of the Edwards campaign. The commission concluded the payments wouldn’t be reportable as campaign donations, Van Laningham said in court papers.

When Eagles barred evidence of the FEC’s ruling on May 15, she said the issue was too confusing for the jury and it wasn’t clear what evidence had been put before the commission.

The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 11-00161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).

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