GREENSBORO John Edwards has been described many ways throughout his trial, as a philandering husband, an opportunistic political climber and an egotistical, tragic character.
But he also is a single father of two school-aged children who lost their mother to cancer almost 18 months ago. He has a grown daughter who has not only lost her mother but also was a teenager when her brother, Wade, was killed in a car wreck at age 16.
Edwards attorneys say he is also involved in the life of the 4-year-old daughter he had with his former mistress, Rielle Hunter. They say Edwards routinely visits the preschooler, who lives with her mother in Charlotte.
As the high-profile defendant awaits a verdict, the children whose lives have been forever changed by his misadventures could have their lives further disrupted by a conviction. Edwards is charged with six counts related to violating campaign finance laws to hide his affair during his run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
The jury is to return to its deliberations on Wednesday after three days together behind closed doors.
Defense attorney Abbe Lowell mentioned Edwards children in his closing argument.
Emma Claire and Jack are middle-schoolers who live with their dad in the rambling house outside Chapel Hill that their mother designed when his presidential hopes were still alive. He attends their ballgames and after-school activities, friends say, and before the trial was driving them to school each morning.
Edwards, Lowell said, could hopefully be the same kind of father for Frances Quinn, his 4-year-old daughter.
Of the children, Cate Edwards is more than the big sister. She has taken a public role beside her father, standing as a symbol of loyalty as he copes with the consequences of betrayal.
She has entered and exited the federal courthouse here for the past three weeks, undaunted by the photographers and videographers. A 30-year-old Harvard law school graduate, she steps along quickly and staunchly beside her father, the man who led the family from the Raleigh suburbs onto the national political stage as a U.S. senator and then a two-time Democratic presidential contender and a 2004 vice presidential nominee.
Public support for father
That same family has been in the glare of a harsh spotlight again this month, as prosecutors dredged up many details of Edwards extramarital affair, trying to bolster their claims that hundreds of thousands of dollars used to hide a pregnant Hunter in villas, resorts and California mansions were campaign contributions that went unreported and exceeded legal limits.
Cate Edwards was married in October to Trevor Upham, a doctor doing a surgery fellowship at Georgetown University whom she met while they both were students at Princeton University. She has been in the courtroom for most of the testimony in her fathers trial.
She is polite to reporters and news crews, and engages warmly with spectators and cancer survivors who approach her during breaks to talk about her mother, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December 2010. Throughout the trial, she often twisted her long, brown hair during particularly tense or tedious segments of testimony.
Once she left the courtroom abruptly during a break in the testimony, tears welling in her eyes, after her father leaned over the rail, motioned her close, and told her in an audible whisper that he did not know what was coming next.
The witness, a friend of her mothers, then testified about an emotional scene at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in which an angry and distraught Elizabeth Edwards stripped off her bra, exposed her chest, and yelled at her husband whose affair had just become the subject of a National Enquirer report You dont see me anymore.
For the most part, though, Cate Edwards sat quietly behind her father as witness after witness recounted seamy details of his extramarital relationship and the volatile arguments between her parents.