Edwards trial focus on what donor knew

May 15, 2012 at 8:54 PM
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GREENSBORO, N.C., May 15 (UPI) -- A witness at the trial of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards. D-N.C., testified he did not tell a lawyer for a wealthy donor checks she wrote were gifts for Edwards.

Wade Smith, a North Carolina trial lawyer who has represented Edwards in the past, testified Tuesday at Edwards' trial on charges of misusing campaign contributions to support his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their child. Smith changed his story on the witness stand when prosecutors produced a contradictory e-mail, ABC News reported.

Edwards' lawyers argue the money he got from Rachel Mellon, known as "Bunny money" after her nickname, was a gift and not a contribution to Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign. They say Andrew Young, an Edwards aide who helped conceal the affair with Hunter -- and said at one point he was the child's father -- solicited money from Mellon without Edwards knowing about it.

Alex Forger, who represented Mellon, said last week he called Smith to ask him if checks she was writing to Edwards should be treated as gifts for tax purposes. He said Smith's response was: "John Edwards has said he acknowledges now that this was for his benefit."

During his testimony Tuesday, Smith said he would not want to quote a client, but then he said he would not have "wanted" to do that – after he was shown he had an e-mail exchange in 2008. Asked again, he said he had no "recollection" of the conversation with Forger.

Edwards' daughter, Cate, had been on the witness list for Tuesday. She is expected to testify this week.

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