A federal judge today rejected defense lawyers' arguments that the case against John Edwards should be thrown out because there "was not one ounce of evidence" that the former presidential candidate broke the law by using nearly $1 million in donations to hide his mistress.
Instead, Edwards' lawyer Abbe Lowell said the disgraced former senator was simply trying to extricate his family from indignity."
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled that the case would continue, ordering the defense to ready witnesses for testimony on Monday.
The judge did not buy Edwards' lawyers argument that the case should be dismissed because the government failed to "prove beyond a reasonable doubt... that Edwards with knowledge... violated campaign finance laws."
Edwards is accused of using nearly $1 million from wealthy donors to hide his affair with mistress Rielle Hunter and to keep secret that she gave birth to his baby during his bid for the 2008 presidential nomination.
Edwards, however, contends the donations were personal gifts meant to be used at his discretion, including keeping the affair a secret from his wife.
The prosecution wrapped its case on Thursday after 14 days of testimony. Edwards is charged with six counts of violating the federal campaign finance law. He could be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines if convicted.
Lowell said Edwards had admittedly lied about an affair with Hunter and fathering a child with her, but the government's argument that "John Edwards lied about the affair so he lied [about the money]?is too much of an inference."
"What ounce of proof is there that this money was a campaign contribution?" Lowell asked the judge.
But Eagles recounted testimony from witness John Davis, an Edwards aide, who said he overheard donor Fred Baron telling Edwards on a plane that Hunter was being secreted away in numerous safe houses.
"Isn't that evidence that John Edwards knew?" the judge asked, signaling she believed that government had enough of a case to continue with the trial.
In arguing to dismiss the case, Edwards' lawyers previewed the argument they will make in the weeks ahead.
Lowell said the money was not donated to advance Edwards' presidential campaign but rather to help support his illegitimate child and protect his family from the painful truth.
"Mr. Edwards would have expenses for a baby he fathered, whether there was a campaign or not," Lowell said.
In 14 days of testimony, the prosecution presented a parade of aides who helped funnel the money from two wealthy donors: Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a 101-year-old Virginia heiress, and Baron, a trial lawyer who served for a time as Edwards' campaign treasurer.
Mellon was deemed too old to testify and Baron died in 2008, leaving the prosecution to rely on their confidantes and Edwards' inner circle of advisers to outline the money's circuitous trail.
The chief witness for the prosecution was Andrew Young, Edwards' closest aide, who testified that he solicited money from Mellon, which he used to hide Hunter and her baby in safe houses and upscale hotels across the country, all at Edwards' bequest.
Edwards' defense lawyers tried to depict Young as a duplicitous schemer, acting on his own volition, skimming a $1 million for himself, and collecting information, including a sex tape, with which to blackmail his boss.
Young, Lowell said, was a liar "who claimed to talk to [former Secretary of State] Warren Christopher about John Edwards being vice president and that he (Young) was 'an adviser on Iraq.'"
The government argued that Edwards knew Young and his wife were soliciting donations on his behalf. "Mr. Edwards knew full well that what he was asking Andrew and Cheri Young to do was against the law," prosecutors said.