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Edwards' defense closes by arguing he sinned with his affair, but broke no laws

 

He's a sinner, but he's no crook.

That was the final message from John Edwards' defense team Thursday as both sides made closing arguments in the month-long corruption trial that threw open the blinds on his once-secret affair with Rielle Hunter. 

While the prosecution argued Edwards knew he was breaking the law by allowing donors to send hush money to Hunter, the failed presidential candidate's lawyer asked jurors to separate the immorality of the affair from the legal question surrounding the cover-up.

"This is a case that should define whether someone is committing a wrong or someone is committing a crime ... someone is committing a sin or someone is committing a felony," Edwards' lead lawyer Abbe Lowell said. 

Lowell pointed to a Bible sitting on the judge's bench and then to a law book on the prosecution's desk. 

"These two books were never on the same table," he said. 

Lowell added, "If what John did was a federal crime, we'd better build a lot more courtrooms ... because the government will always be able to turn an affair into a crime." 

Prosecutor Robert Higdon, though, told jurors Edwards "knew the law and decided to violate it in order to salvage his campaign." 

The government is attempting to prove that John Edwards used nearly $1 million in campaign donations to hide his pregnant mistress and protect his 2008 bid for the White House. 

"Campaign finance laws are designed to ensure the two Americas come together," Higdon said. "John Edwards had no problem separating the two Americas when it suited him." 

By referring to "two Americas," Higdon was playing off a phrase Edwards used during his political campaigns to indicate the divide between rich and poor. 

Edwards' lawyers claim their client was largely unaware of the secret funds to keep his mistress in hiding and say the money constituted private gifts intended to protect his cancer-stricken wife from finding out about the affair. 

Lowell also delivered an attack Thursday on the credibility of the prosecution's key witness, Andrew Young -- referring to the former aide and his wife, Cheri Young, as a couple "who could shame Bonny and Clyde." 

"If you can't believe Andrew Young, that leaves the prosecution with no evidence," Lowell said. 

"At any time, Andrew Young will just make up whatever he wants and the government will make a case around it," he added. 

Lowell also criticized the prosecution for dwelling on salacious details of Edwards' affair and his wife's reaction -- including testimony that Elizabeth Edwards, a breast cancer patient, exposed her chest to her husband during a heated confrontation in an aircraft hangar. 

"Did the story of Elizabeth Edwards at the hangar prove Edwards knew he was doing something illegal, or was it to make you not like him?" Lowell asked rhetorically. 

Lowell also suggested the defense was able to present its case in just under three days, less than a quarter the time it took the prosecution, because Edwards' lawyers "turned to the issues that matter -- campaign issues, not the affair." 

The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Friday. 

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.