John Edwards Jury Looking at ‘Bunny’ Money as Deliberations Continue
(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- The jury in John Edwards' campaign finance trial begins its second day of deliberations Monday morning in Greensboro, N.C.
The panel of eight men and four women spent about five hours behind closed doors on Friday as they began to weigh the evidence presented over nearly four weeks of testimony.
Shortly after they retired to the jury room on Friday, the jurors sent out a note to Judge Catherine Eagles, requesting a number of trial exhibits related to money provided by Virginia heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon in 2007.
The government alleges in count two of a six-count indictment that Edwards and his former aide Andrew Young illegally solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mellon as part of the effort to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign. Count three of the indictment contains similar allegations, but is focused on checks Mellon wrote in January 2008, shortly before Edwards ended his quest for the nomination.
Among the exhibits the jury requested is a letter Mellon wrote in April 2007 that is sometimes referred to as the "haircut" letter. Mellon wrote the letter to Young, shortly after the press had seized on the news that Edwards had charged a $400 haircut to his campaign.
"I was sitting alone in a grim mood -- furious that the press had attacked Sen. Edwards on the price of a hair cut," Mellon's handwritten note reads. "From now on, all hair cuts, etc., that are a necessary and important part of his campaign, please send the bills to me. It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions."
Within six weeks of that letter, Mellon began writing a series of personal checks that would eventually add up to $725,000 over seven months. The jury also requested copies of the first two of those checks, which were funnelled to Young through an intermediary and eventually deposited in an account in the maiden name of Young's wife, Cheri.
Edwards' defense team has argued that Young was taking advantage of Mellon, bilking her out of the money with the pretense that it was for Edwards. They noted that the vast majority of Mellon's money went to Young and his wife, who used much of it to fund the construction of their $1.6 million home.
After the jury's request on Friday, an Edwards lawyer told a clutch of reporters in the courtroom that the deliberations could take a while. The jury appears, at least at the outset, to be taking a meticulous, count-by-count approach to their discussions.
Edwards is charged with conspiracy, accepting illegal campaign contributions and making false statements. If convicted on all six counts, he faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
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