John Edwards, the former presidential candidate, told the wife of a campaign aide that checks sent from a donor to his mistress were legal, the wife said at Edwards’s criminal trial.
Cheri Young testified today in federal court in Greensboro, North Carolina, that Edwards called her shortly before multimillionaire heiress Rachel Mellon began forwarding the checks to say he had inquired with campaign lawyers and the payments were legal. Cheri Young’s husband, Andrew, worked on Edwards’s bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
“Get the money in,” Cheri Young said Edwards told her during that conversation. Young said her role was to endorse the checks in her maiden name and deposit them into the couple’s bank account. “I ultimately agreed. I knew the campaign would fall to pieces if I didn’t do it. Andrew Young and I had given everything to the campaign and we were at the peak point.”
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 met in a New York bar in 2006 and hired as a campaign videographer. Edwards, who fathered a child with Hunter, faces as long as five years in prison for each of the six counts against him if convicted.
Andrew Young, a witness for the government, spent most of last week testifying that Edwards targeted supporters for cash to support Hunter and asked him to approach those people. He also said Edwards assured him that the plan was absolutely legal. The former senator abandoned him after suspending his 2008 presidential campaign, Young testified.
Cheri Young told prosecutors today that she was “disgusted” about the plan to support Hunter.
“My husband always had to fix the problem, and now I had to,” Cheri Young said.
Mellon gave more than $725,000 toward Hunter’s support, prosecutors said. Cheri Young testified today about $38,000 in checks passed from the Youngs’ account to Hunter’s from June 2007 to December 2007.
Defense lawyers have tried to paint Andrew Young as an opportunist who saw Edwards as a ticket to the top. Some of Mellon’s money was used to build the Youngs’ $1.5 million home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, lawyers for Edwards said.
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