Ex-Edwards aide back on the witness stand at trial
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012
GREENSBORO (AP) — The aide who helped John Edwards hide his pregnant mistress testified Tuesday that the former presidential candidate directed him to seek money from rich friends to provide the woman a monthly allowance.
Former aide Andrew Young took the witness stand for a second day at Edwards’ criminal trial. Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to campaign finance violations involving nearly $1 million in secret payments provided by two wealthy donors as he sought the White House in 2008.
Young testified that Edwards directed him to start giving money to the mistress, Rielle Hunter, in May 2007 after she threatened to go to the media and expose the affair. Young said he suggested asking Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, an elderly heiress who had already given generously to Edwards’ campaign.
Without telling Mellon what the money would be used for beyond that it was a “non-campaign” expense, Young said she offered to provide $1.2 million over time to help pay for the candidate’s personal needs. Under federal law, donors are limited to giving a maximum of $2,300 per election cycle.
Young said they hatched a plan where Mellon would send the checks to her interior designer in Charlotte, who would then endorse the checks to be deposited in a personal account controlled by Young and his wife, Cheri.
“We were scared,” Young said. “It was a truckload of money, more money than had ever flowed through our accounts. … It was crazy.”
Young said he expressed concern to Edwards, a former trial lawyer, that they might be violating federal campaign finance laws.
“He told me he had talked to several campaign finance experts and that it was legal,” Young testified. “It felt and smelled wrong. But he knew more about the law than we did. We believed him.”
Prosecutors showed the jury a series of cancelled checks from Mellon written to the interior designer, who would then endorse them and send them to the Youngs. Starting in June 2007, Mellon would eventually provide checks totaling $750,000.
That June, Young said Hunter told Edwards she was pregnant.
Young said Edwards then called him and told him to “take care of it.”
“He said she was a crazy slut and there was a 1-in-3 chance that it (the child) was his,” Young testified.
The aide said Edwards then directed him to use the money from Mellon to provide a monthly allowance to Hunter of between $5,000 and $12,000. The money would allow her to travel and continue to meet up with the married candidate while he was away from his home and now deceased wife, Elizabeth, who had grown suspicious of the affair.
Edwards has denied knowing about the money provided by Mellon. In opening statements on Monday, Edwards defense lawyer Alison Van Laningham said the Youngs siphoned off the bulk of the money to pay for the construction of their $1.5 million house near Chapel Hill.
Young’s testimony will continue Tuesday afternoon.