GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Virginia philanthropist who issued $725,000 in checks to benefit John Edwards thought of the former presidential candidate as a friend first, Alexander Forger, her lawyer, testified Monday.

Forger returned to the stand Monday morning in the trial of Edwards, the former Democratic presidential contender accused of violating campaign finance laws.

The philanthropist, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, 101, has failing eyesight and hearing loss, Forger said, but her mind is sharp.

On the 11th day of testimony in a case that is expected to test the sweep of campaign finance law, prosecutor Robert Higdon asked a question about Mellon’s intent in providing the money, but Forger’s response bolstered the defense. Forger said Mellon was intending to provide gifts, not campaign contributions. “Her view of Mr. Edwards was she liked him as a person,” Forger said.

She was not as concerned about him being president as she was with supporting him in any of his endeavors, he said.

The government contends that the Mellon money was a contribution to Edwards’ campaign and he broke the law by not reporting her checks and by accepting donations in excess of individual campaign contribution limits. Edwards’ attorneys argue that the checks were not campaign contributions, but gifts from Mellon to take care of a personal matter, namely the hiding of Edwards’ pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter.