The John Edwards campaign fund fraud trial is calling one of its highest-profile witnesses to the stand – his 30-year-old daughter Cate Edwards, who has been a public supporter of her father’s throughout this entire ordeal.
Edwards is on trial for allegedly using almost $1 million in campaign donations to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter and subsequently also hide their baby daughter Frances Quinn during the 2008 presidential campaign. If convicted, he could be sentenced for up to 30 years in prison.
Edwards’ main defense is that he was using the money not to conceal the affair and child from the voters, but from his wife Elizabeth Edwards, who was dying of cancer.
Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, who is close to the Edwards family, tells ABC News, “I think we will expect to hear more details from Cate how he loved Elizabeth, how he tended to her in her final days. You will hear more about that that was his primary concern in hiding the affair, protecting his family.”
“Cate told me not too long ago, I’m the child of two parents … and she is going to stick by him. She said that is what families do. She believes he committed no crime,” Westfall adds.
Kieran Shanahan, a lawyer who has attended the trial, tells ABC News that Cate’s testimony may help to humanize Edwards in the eyes of the jyr.
“Cate’s brother died when she was young, her mom died of cancer. Her father has fallen very hard, very fast, but she is there standing behind him,” says Shanahan. “All of that can make her sympathetic to the jury, could humanize John Edwards to the jury.”
But it is a fine line to walk for Cate.
“But only if she has some salient points to make,” Shanahan continues. “If she’s up there and it seems there is no real reason for her to be up there, the jurors may scratch their heads and think John Edwards is using his daughter to try and help himself in a criminal case.”
A lot of the testimony for the defense has focused on Elizabeth Edwards’ supposed volcanic rages and breakdowns in the face of her cancer and her husband’s alleged philandering (it was “alleged” at the time).
“You see in the testimony that defense lawyers are eliciting a portrait of Elizabeth that focuses on her temper, her volcanic rages, her uncontrolled breakdowns and I think that serves the defense strategy in saying that John’s biggest interest was in hiding this from Elizabeth because he feared the affect on her,” says Westfall. “It is a tricky line for Cate to walk in participating in that strategy because she doesn’t want her mother remembered as anything but an innocent victim here.”