The SDFLA Blog is dedicated to providing news and notes regarding federal practice in the Southern District of Florida. The New Times calls the blog "the definitive source on South Florida's federal court system." All tips on court happenings are welcome and will remain anonymous. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Funny Bunny Money? Edwards Jury: Four Days and Counting
It's the old axiom: $400 hair cuts never pay. Senator Edwards's hairgate episode has resurfaced during the trial in the form of a key handwritten letter written by FOJ heiress, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, to former Edwards aide and star government witness, Andrew Young. The letter written in response to negative hair press has been dubbed by trial followers as the "haircut letter." In it, Mellon wrote, "From now on, all haircuts, etc., that are a necessary and IMPORTANT PART OF HIS CAMPAIGN, please send the bills to me. It is a way to help our friend WITHOUT GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS." Over the next 8 months, Mellon sent Young more than $700,000 in checks made out to Young's wife -- payments to support and stash Edwards's mistress and love child. Another large donor, Fred Barron, also made similar payments. Neither Mellon (101 years old) nor Barron (deceased) were available to testify at trial. The jury has been poring over the letter as well as two related letters written by Mellon's personal attorney during its now-four days of deliberations. The jury is likely stuck on whether payments made to hide Edwards's affair can be reasonably classified as illegal campaign contributions. Many legal commentators already have poked holes in the government's novel theory of prosecution so I won't bore you with my defense musings. You can read more here.
Btw, there is a local angle to the case. Pictured above (stage center just behind D.C. defense superlawyer Abbe Lowell) is the always-dapper DOJ prosecutor and SDFLA alum, Jeff Tsai. In my former life, I had the pleasure of second-chairing one of Jeff's first trials in the office. Jeff is a good trial lawyer (and an even better dresser). His perfect Windsor knots in an office of government schleps were the stuff of legend. In a different world, he and Senator Edwards would have a beer summit over hair coif tips.