John Edwards for weeks assured a campaign aide who was helping conceal his extramarital affair that he wouldn’t abandon him after suspending his 2008 presidential campaign, only to do just that, the ex-aide said.
In June 2008, about six months after dropping out of the race, Edwards told the aide, Andrew Young, that he was seeking $50 million from multimillionaire heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to fund a poverty foundation, Young testified today. Young said he was told the foundation would give him a job.
Edwards wanted to “be to poverty what Al Gore was to the environment,” Young said during his third day of testimony before a federal jury in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Edwards is on trial for alleged campaign finance violations.
In mid-June 2008, after not speaking since January, the two men met at an inn in Washington, Young said. Edwards, a Democrat and former U.S. senator for North Carolina, apologized for not having called and told Young he was sad about the election, Young said.
Edwards said “he loved me and I should know that he would not abandon me,” Young testified. “He promised to work on returning phone calls, staying in touch and work on the foundation.”
‘Fell in Love’
“Is it true you fell in love with John Edwards?” Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Edwards, asked Young on cross-examination. “Is it true you fell out of love with John Edwards?”
“Yes sir,” Young answered.
“Is it true you’ve come to disdain him?” Lowell asked.
“Yes, for what he’s done to me and my family,” Young said.
Young also testified that he saw Edwards as his “ticket to the top” and that knowing Edwards as president or vice president “would lead to great things.”
Edwards is accused of illegally using almost $1 million in contributions from Mellon and Fred Baron, a now-deceased trial lawyer, to conceal his affair with Rielle Hunter, an unemployed filmmaker he hired as a campaign videographer. Edwards, who fathered a child with Hunter, faces a maximum five-year prison term for each of the six counts against him if convicted.
Prosecutors allege Edwards used Young to do his “dirty work,” seeking out donors for money to support Hunter. Edwards’s lawyers have labeled Young as an opportunist who used some of the funds in dispute to build a mansion in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
In mid-July 2008, Mellon, who allegedly gave more than $725,000 toward the plan to conceal Hunter, declined to fund the foundation, Young said.
“She was upset because she felt like we were just using her for her money,” Young said.
Still, Edwards continued to assure Young in e-mails and voice mails that the foundation was “doable” and he would work to “calm” Mellon.
Edwards admitted he had an affair with Hunter in an ABC News interview on Aug. 8, 2008. Several days later he and Young had their last conversation, on a desolate country road near Edwards’s home in Chapel Hill, Young testified today. Baron had called and told him Edwards wanted to meet, Young said.
Edwards told Young he had been to visit Mellon and was confronted by her attorney and an accountant over “odd” checks she wrote to an interior decorator.
Edwards said “I didn’t know anything about these. Do you?” Young recalled during testimony. Young said he told him no.
‘Scared and Paranoid’
“I was scared and paranoid and I felt like the conversation was being tape recorded,” Young testified.
Edwards told him the foundation wasn’t going to happen and offered him a job recommendation.
“I have evidence of everything that’s going on and if you don’t come clean I’m going public,” Young said he told Edwards.
“You can’t hurt me Andrew,” Edwards said, according to Young.
Young acknowledged under questioning by prosecutors that his testimony differs in part from what was published in his 2010 book “The Politician.” Young said he didn’t get to read the final draft of the book, which details Edwards’s affair, before it was published.
The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 11-00161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).
To contact the reporters on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at firstname.lastname@example.org; John Peragine in Greensboro, North Carolina, at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at firstname.lastname@example.org