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Edwards' defense team rests case in corruption trial

 

John Edwards' defense rested its case Wednesday in the politician's corruption trial, after nearly a month of testimony that brought the jury deep into the Edwards family drama that unfolded as his hidden affair with Rielle Hunter was exposed. 

The defense did not end up calling either Edwards himself or his daughter Cate to the witness stand, nor did the defense call Hunter. 

Closing arguments could come as early as Wednesday afternoon. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Friday -- the judge in the case has denied a last-ditch request by the defense to dismiss the charges. 

At stake is the freedom of a former presidential candidate and the Democrats' former vice presidential nominee. Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges. He has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts including conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, accepting contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits and causing his campaign to file a false financial disclosure report. 

Prosecutors have shown that two members of Edwards' inner circle, campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and aide Andrew Young, engaged in a yearlong effort to hide the married Edwards' mistress from the media. Young falsely claimed paternity of his boss' baby and received $725,000 in secret checks from an elderly heiress, using some of the money to care for Hunter. 

Baron provided Young and Hunter with more than $400,000 in cash, luxury hotels, private jets and a $20,000-a-month rental mansion in Santa Barbara, California. 

However no witness said Edwards knew he was violating campaign finance laws, a key element of criminal intent the government must prove to win a conviction. 

After years of denials, Edwards admitted fathering his Hunter's baby in January 2010, shortly after agreeing to pay child support. 

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.