(GREENSBORO, N.C.) — Prosecutors in North Carolina are looking to wrap up their case against John Edwards by the end of the week, but it remains unclear whether they will take the potentially risky move of calling the former presidential hopeful’s mistress Rielle Hunter to testify.
Edwards is on trial for allegedly using campaign donations to hide his affair with Hunter and her subsequent pregnancy. He could be sentenced to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Throughout the trial, which is now in its third week, Hunter has been called “crazy” and a “loose cannon” who relied on a “spiritual adviser” for everything from the right dressing for a Reuben sandwich to the best place to have the baby Edwards secretly fathered.
“It is dangerous to call her at the end, because if she flops for the government, it’s not the note that you want to end on,” former prosecutor Kieran Shanahan told ABC News. “At the same time, I just think the story is incomplete without her and she will acknowledge that she did receive the money.”
On Monday, Tim Toben, a friend of Edwards’ former top aide Andrew Young, testified that in the fall of 2007 he was given a secret mission to drive Hunter along with Young and his wife to the airport in the middle of the night so they could leave North Carolina and go into hiding.
“It was peculiar because [Hunter] had black sunglasses on, even though it was dark,” Toben told the court, adding that “she was clearly pregnant.”
Toben also testified that when the Youngs and Hunter were living in California he was also asked to go to Hunter’s rental home in North Carolina and retrieve some personal items, including “a photograph of Mr. Edwards and Miss Hunter.” On the photo, “I love you, John,'” was written, Toben testified.
In the summer of 2009, Hunter testified before a grand jury under an immunity agreement, and raised some eyebrows when she brought her daughter Quinn along. At that time, Edwards had yet to admit he was the child’s father.
In Hunter’s only public statements since the affair was exposed she has seemed to support the defense theory that Edwards was hiding his affair with her from his wife, rather than hiding it from voters. When asked by Oprah Winfrey whether she thinks Edwards was more afraid of the public finding out about their relationship or of his wife Elizabeth — who died of cancer in 2010 — discovering the affair, Hunter replied, “Elizabeth.”
In an interview that accompanied a risqué photo spread with GQ magazine in 2010, Hunter claimed to be in the dark about the $725,000 funneled from wealthy heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to Young, who has become the government’s key witness.
“I never had any idea,” Hunter told the magazine. “He told me he received two [small] checks from her … and that he never deposited them.”
The prosecution is trying to prove that Edwards willfully, personally and routinely asked Mellon for money, and that he knew about the $725,000 Mellon funnelled to him through Young over the course of his campaign to win the presidency between 2006 and 2008.
Edwards’ defense hinges on his argument that he never personally asked Mellon for any money, that Young acted on his own to solicit money, and he was hiding Hunter from his wife, not from the voters or the government.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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