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Edwards' mistress lived tabloid-grade life

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Rielle Hunter's life had a supermarket-tabloid quality to it -- full of deception, betrayal and reckless behavior -- well before she became a party to one of the biggest lies in recent American political history.

Her father had her beloved horse killed for insurance money. She went to Hollywood to become a star and left about a decade later with only a few bit parts.

Through it all, Hunter considered herself a truth-seeker. "For as long as I can remember, I had a relentless desire for truth," she said on her website in the mid-2000s.

She met John Edwards in the bar of a New York hotel in 2006. Hunter said they had a connection the instant their eyes met.

Despite her lack of filmmaking experience, Edwards arranged a $250,000 contract for her to make a series of behind-the-scenes documentaries from the campaign trail.

Though Edwards' aides quickly grew suspicious, the job gave her a reason to travel with the candidate while his wife was home in North Carolina fighting breast cancer. Word of the affair got back to Elizabeth Edwards and Hunter lost her job.

When Hunter got pregnant with Edwards' child in 2007, she agreed to protect his presidential ambitions by letting the Edwards' devoted aide claim paternity.

Whether Edwards is telling the truth is now at the center of his campaign finance trial, under way in North Carolina. His lawyers said they had no idea nearly $1 million from a pair of wealthy benefactors was being spent to hide Hunter and keep her away from the tabloids during Edwards' run for the White House. Prosecutors said Edwards orchestrated the cover-up.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday without calling Hunter to the stand despite granting her immunity. They refused to say why. Experts said she can be flighty and unpredictable and could have hurt the government's case.

Edwards' lawyers have not said whether they will call her to testify, but she could be hazardous to the defense for the same reason. Also, legal experts said, her appearance on the stand might only hurt Edwards with the jury by emphasizing his cheating and lying.

Hunter, 48, now lives in Charlotte with her daughter, 4. She has spoken little about her relationship with Edwards since his wife's death.

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