GREENSBORO, N.C. May 15, 2012 -- John Edwards and his mistress Rielle Hunter might both be called to the witness stand Wednesday, delivering explosive back-to-back testimony and concluding nearly a month of court proceedings that have laid bare the steamy details of their affair and the trail of money used to cover it up.
Additionally, Edwards lawyers said today, they potentially will call Edwards' adult daughter Cate Edwards as well as Andrew Young, once Edwards' most trusted aide who helped hide Edwards' affair and even claimed paternity of his love child.
Edwards is on trial for allegedly using nearly $1 million in donations to hide Hunter and later their baby daughter during his quest for the 2008 presidential nomination. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Edwards defense team submitted the potential witness lineup at the end of proceedings today. It could be a blockbuster finish to a trial that has proceded more like a Shakespearian tragedy than a hearing on campaign finances.
It is uncertain whether John Edwards will testify because that would open him up to a withering cross examination by prosecutors, and it has already been established that Edwards lied at different times about much of the case, including about fathering Hunter's child.
An even greater unknown is Hunter. Since conducting a handful of interviews in 2010, Hunter has remained largely unseen and unheard. The current status of her relationship with Edwards remains unknown.
Hunter was listed as a potential prosecution witness as well, but the government never called her to the stand in three weeks of arguments. Though, she is at the center of the scandal, lawyers for both sides may be too nervous to call her, unaware of just exactly what she might say.
Listing Edwards and Hunter on their witness list may just be an effort by the defense to keep the prosecution off balance.
Cate Edwards, 30, was listed as a potential witness today, but did not testify. Of the three, she is most likely to take the stand.
A lawyer herself, she has sat behind her father through almost every day of testimony leaving only when a witness described her mother Elizabeth's emotional anguish at discovering Edwards' illicit affair and illegitimate child.
Cate may corroborate her father's story that the financial donations were meant as gifts to Edwards enabling to hide the affair from his wife, Elizabeth, who was dying of cancer.
But her potential testimony will be a tightrope for her because she does not want to hurt either parent, a reporter with sources close to the Edwards family.
"You see in the testimony that defense lawyers are eliciting a portrait of Elizabeth that focuses on her temper, her volcanic rages, her uncontrolled breakdowns and I think that serves the defense strategy in saying that John's biggest interest was in hiding this from Elizabeth because he feared the affect on her.
"It is a tricky line for Cate to walk in participating in that strategy because she doesn't want her mother remembered as anything but an innocent victim here," said Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, Washington bureau chief for People magazine.
"Cate has never publically spoken about the effect of the scandal on her... She has never really opened up publically about what this affair meant. So I think there is going to be a lot of sympathy for her and a lot of hanging on every word she has
John Edwards Witness Waffled on Stand
Edwards lawyers have signaled they could be done presenting their case as early as Wednesday and likely no later than Friday.
Earlier today, a key witness in Edwards' defense waffled on the stand, changing his testimony about whether Edwards had told him that money obtained from wealthy backer Rachel "Bunny" Mellon was for his "benefit" and was used to provide for his mistress and love child.
Wade Smith, a North Carolina trial lawyer who has represented Edwards, initially denied telling Mellon's attorney that Edwards acknowledged the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in what became known as "Bunny money."
Alex Forger, Mellon's lawyer, testified last week that he called Smith in an attempt to find out why the elderly philanthropist was writing so many checks. Forger asked Smith if the money was a gift for Edwards and whether Mellon should declare it as such on her taxes.
Smith got back to Forger telling him, "John Edwards has said he acknowledges now that this was for his benefit," Forger testified last week.
This morning, however, Smith denied making that statement. "I would never quote my client," he told the court.
But when the prosecution introduced a December 2008 email between Forger, Smith and another Edwards lawyer, Jim Cooney, indicating they had talked with Edwards about the money, Smith altered his story.
"I certainly would not have wanted to do that," Smith told the court.
When asked a third time if he ever told Forger the "Bunny money" was for Edwards' benefit, Smith again changed his answer, saying: "I have no recollection of saying that. I do not."
Smith's testimony appears to complicate Edwards' claim that he was unaware that former aide Andrew Young collected $725,000 from Mellon on Edwards' behalf.
Young and his wife Cheri spent more than a year hiding Hunter from the public and the press, with Young even claiming paternity of Edwards' baby.
To bolster Edwards' claim, his lawyers called John Moylan, a friend of Edwards who accompanied him to Mellon's home where Moylan claims that Edwards learned for the first time that Young was soliciting the wealthy heiress for money.
"He was as surprised to hear it as I was," Moylan said of Edwards' reaction. "Sen. Edwards said 'Bunny, you should not be sending money to anyone.'"
"John and I discussed it. It was a significant issue. There was a concern that… Andrew Young was using Sen. Edwards' name to get money from Ms. Mellon," Moylan testifed.
Prosecutors tried to slap down that story by introducing the transcript of a phone call Edwards made to Young, using Moylan's cell phone, just a day before the pair visited Mellon at her sprawling Virginia estate.
"Everything is a go," Edwards told Young. "I'm going to make sure you're protected and included. This is John Moylan's phone I'm using. Keep your head up."
To further the claim that Young was pocketing money from Mellon, his defense team introduced Young's bank statements showing $725,000 he received from Mellon.
The daughter was expected to be called as a witness and normally witnesses are not allowed to attend court proceedings before they testify. But Cate Edwards was given a waiver by Judge Catherine Eagles to sit through testimony because she is her father's closest family member. She has entered the court and left with her father almost daily and takes her place directly behind her dad when court is in session.
She has smiled and even chuckled when something in the courtroom went their way, but much of the testimony has been difficult to listen to and at one point she has made sure she was not present.
The most heart rending moment of the trial came when a former Edwards' aide was about to testify about a confrontation between a distraught Elizabeth Edwards and her wayward husband. Before it began, Cate Edwards left her seat wiping her eyes as her father called after her, "Cate, Cate."
The witness went on to describe Elizabeth Edwards collapsing on an airport tarmac and then tearing off her blouse and bra while yelling at her husband, "You don't see me any more."
"There are these moments of just deep anguishing pain that have been relived in that courtroom and you know we saw the day of that airport scene being replayed, that it was too much for Cate and she left in tears to escape the details of how badly her mother ached," Westfall said.