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Let’s Face It: Why dirty details matter in the Edwards trial, even when they shouldn't
Banfield writes that the 'dirty details' in the case could come back to haunt John Edwards.
April 27th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Let’s Face It: Why dirty details matter in the Edwards trial, even when they shouldn't

From Early Start's Ashleigh Banfield:

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2012/images/04/27/ash_blog_head.jpg width=200 height=230 align="right"]

Sex, money and politics always make for great gossip. But toss in a presidential candidate, a pretty little baby and questionable campaign contributions – now you've got yourself a headline for the ages.

The behavior of former U.S Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has been repulsive. That he took a mistress, impregnated her, then covered it up by lying repeatedly to anyone who asked about it, isn't being litigated. It’s what you call a bad set of facts in the federal court case against him. The details of his cheating, lying, and the wholesale humiliation of his dying wife, Elizabeth, are undisputed.

Also undisputed is the bald-face lying that his fawning aide perpetrated to keep the whole sordid affair under wraps. But the cost of that cover up, and how the cover-up was financed, is the issue for a federal jury.

What did John Edwards know about the incoming and outgoing money used to keep things hush-hush during his campaign for president? It’s now the duty of those jurors to stomach all the dirty details connected to both Edwards and his deputy, Andrew Young.

Long ago, Young was on board to deceive the world and pretend the mistress and the baby were his, not Edwards.

Astoundingly, his wife played right along.

He and the equally dishonest Mrs. Young embarked on a first class adventure - jet-setting from one lavish resort location to another - all in an effort to spirit away the offending mistress, whose true tale would poison the squeaky clean candidate's wholesome image.

What good yarn doesn't have an elderly heiress, one who just might have been as fond of Edwards as was his mistress, but one who could not have ended up in the same pickle?

Bunny Mellon was well into her 90s, with more money than she knew with what to do. So she gave lots of it to Edwards.

Herein lies the crux of the case, and where the jurors have their work cut out for them.

Did Bunny Mellon help out a good personal pal/obsession in a time of need? Or did Bunny Mellon get suckered into giving huge campaign contributions with no questions asked? Did Edwards know how the payments were being orchestrated, how they were being solicited from Mellon, and how the money was hemorrhaging out towards paying for jet fuel and room service at the lavish mistress hideaway camps?

Did Andrew Young spill truthful beans in his less-than-loyal tell-all book, one that unloaded most of the blame on the senator, or did Young and his wife dive into siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars for a lengthy gilded vacation?

Do any of the nitty gritty details even matter?

The answer is: yes. But perhaps, maybe not.

A jury is made up of people. And people pass judgment every day on the behavior of others, no courtroom needed. This jury may decide to do that very thing: Pass judgment on deplorable behavior.

The actual commission of a crime here is certainly up for debate, and it would take a kind of tough negotiating that could put the Star Chamber to shame.

Sometimes juries just find it easier to pass REAL judgment on people who let us down and lie repeatedly, and damage a lot of people in the process. If they get the question of crime wrong, they quietly wink no harm no foul.

Andrew Young has immunity, so they can't judge him. The mistress does too, so they can't punish her.

But they can look across the courtroom into Edwards lying eyes and say "maybe you broke the law and maybe you didn't ...either way, we'll err on the side of you paying a price." That's when the dirty details come back to haunt you.

It may not be a perfect system as jurors can find justice in myriad ways. But karma's a glitch.

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