The jury in the John Edwards mistress and money trial ended its third day of deliberations today after apparently making little progress, asking to review evidence that suggests they are still focused one just one or two of the six counts with which the former presidential candidate is charged.
The panel of eight men and four women has six felony charges to consider, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years and a $250,000 fine. Edwards is accused of soliciting money from wealthy donors to conceal his mistress and love child during his 2008 bid for the White House.
For three days, observers have noted that jurors have requested evidence relating only to the second count, and perhaps the third, that deal specifically with money obtained from 101-year-old heiress and Edwards supporter, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.
This evening after nearly 16 hours of deliberations, jurors asked for two more exhibits related to Mellon. One exhibit was a letter from her lawyer Alex Forger to Edwards' aide Andrew Young. The second was a letter from Mellon to Forger.
Forger first learned that Mellon was writing checks to Young in 2007 and became suspicious about for whom the money was really intended.
Edwards was spotted waiting out the jury's decision in a second floor room of the courthouse. Reporters have spotted him pacing the room, looking out the window.
The government alleges in count two of the indictment that Edwards and Young illegally solicited the money from Mellon as part of the effort to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign.
Jurors were charged by federal Judge Catherine Eagles last Friday to first consider counts two through six of the indictment and consider the first count, dealing with conspiracy, last.
The counts the jury will consider in order are as follows:
Count 2: Illegal Campaign Contributions
During 2007 John Edwards, while a candidate for federal office, knowingly and willfully accepted and received contributions from Mellon in excess of the $4,600 limits of the Election Act. (Mellon's checks in 2007 totaled $525,000)
Count 3: Illegal Campaign Contributions
Same charge and wording as count two but for calendar year 2008 (Mellon wrote one check in 2008 for $200,000.)
Count 4: Illegal Campaign Contributions
Same charge and wording as count 2 but related to excess contributions from backer Fred Baron in 2007 ($61,942 in flights and hotel bills for mistress Rielle Hunter, Andrew Young and his family)
Count 5: Illegal Campaign Contributions
Same charge and wording as count two but related to contributions from Baron in 2008 ($131,143 in flights, hotel bills, home rental for the Youngs and Hunter. The total also includes $10,000 in cash)
Count 6: False Statements
Edwards concealed from the John Edwards for President Committee hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mellon and Baron causing the committee to file FEC reports which failed to disclose those contributions
Count 1: Conspiracy
Edwards conspired with others to accept and receive excess contributions from Mellon and Baron. Edwards also concealed material facts from the John Edwards for President Committee causing the committee to file false and misleading campaign finance reports
The jury the spent two days looking just at the first charge, count 2, requesting from the judge 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 haircut," Mellon's handwritten note reads. "From now on, all haircuts, 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 two checks, which were funneled to Andrew Young through an intermediary and eventually deposited in an account in the maiden name of Young's wife, Cheri.
The jury will soon likely turn from contributions donated by Mellon to those given by Baron, before ultimately considering the conspiracy charge.
At the end of the day on Monday, the jurors informed the judge that they'd prefer to keep to a set schedule for deliberations, starting each day at 9:30 a.m. and calling it quits by about 4 p.m. The Middle District of North Carolina covers 24 counties and several of the jurors have long commutes to court each day.
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