John Edwards knowingly chose to break the law and accept illegal campaign contributions to hide an affair because of his relentless ambition to reach the White House, prosecutors told a jury.
“He sent Young to do his dirty work,” Harbach said.
Young, who published a book in 2010 detailing the affair, is expected to testify for the government, as is Hunter. Both were granted some immunity in exchange for their testimony, according to court documents. Also on the witness list is Wendy Button, Edwards’s former speechwriter.
Allison Van Laningham, an attorney for Edwards, sought to paint Young as the opportunist who used the candidate’s name to gain access to Mellon’s checkbook.
“John Edwards did not get one penny of this money. All of the cash went into the accounts of Andrew and Cheri Young,” Van Laningham said. “Andrew Young made his life about John. Every menial task Young performed, make no mistake — what he did, he did for a purpose.”
“He saw John Edwards as his ticket to the top,” Van Laningham said.
‘Follow the Money
She urged jurors to “follow the money,” arguing that the Youngs received more than $1.7 million in their bank accounts and reported to the Internal Revenue Service that they gave Hunter about $180,000. Part of the money Mellon gave Young was used to build a $1.5 million house in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“John Edwards is a man who has committed many sins but no crimes,” Laningham said. “Humiliation. This is what was motivating John Edwards.”
Last week, Eagles reserved ruling on Button’s request to quash a subpoena from Edwards seeking details on her communications with Young and Edwards since 2009 as well as her dealings with government attorneys during a two-year investigation.
Eagles today allowed defense lawyers to tell jurors about Young’s attempts to contact three former Edwards staffers about their potential testimony in the case. She reserved ruling on how far defense lawyers could question Young on his own alleged affair with a co-worker in 2007. The unidentified co-worker is among the three people he attempted to contact in the past two weeks, Eagles said yesterday Read More Dirty Tricks.
Prosecutors may lay out the case against Edwards with audio recordings of voice-mail messages, including ones between the former North Carolina senator and Hunter, as well as e-mails, handwritten notes from Mellon, tax records, hotel bills and bank statements, according to court documents.
Edwards met Hunter, an unemployed filmmaker, at a bar in February 2006, Harbach said. The affair began that night and Edwards would later hire Hunter as a videographer for the campaign, Harbach said.
By Dec. 30, 2006, the night Edwards officially announced his candidacy in Chapel Hill, Elizabeth Edwards had found out about the affair and forced him to fire Hunter, which he did. Elizabeth Edwards died in December 2010.
In February 2007, Edwards turned to Young, his longtime personal aide, for assistance in locating money to support Hunter, Harbach said. Young remembered Mellon and her enthusiasm for Edwards, Harbach said. Young, a law-school graduate who never took the bar exam, expressed concern that what they were doing was against the law, Harbach said. Edwards told Young it was perfectly legal, Harbach said.
“He manipulated him into doing what he wanted and it worked,” Harbach told jurors.
By June 2007 Mellon had sent out her first check. She would write several more, totaling more than $725,000. The checks were made payable to an interior decorator who endorsed them and sent them to the Youngs, Harbach said. The money went toward a monthly allowance of $5,000 to $6,000, a BMW for Hunter and the rental of a house in a gated community in Chapel Hill.
In December 2007 when tabloid photographers took pictures of a very pregnant Hunter leaving a North Carolina supermarket, Edwards allegedly persuaded Young to claim paternity of the child, telling him it was important for the country, the campaign’s cause and his dying wife, Harbach said.
Baron entered the picture, offering his personal jet to take the Youngs and Hunter to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That trip led to five weeks of private jets and first-class accommodations in Aspen, Colorado, San Diego and Santa Barbara, California, as Edwards sought to keep Hunter out of the media spotlight, Harbach said. In all, Baron spent more than $200,000 to hide the affair from the public and Edwards knew it, the prosecutor said. Baron died in October 2008.
“He told Young repeatedly he didn’t want to know where they were since he didn’t want to have to lie about it,” Harbach said. “He knew full well what he’d done was against the law.”
Young testified he began working for Edwards in 1998 and eventually became a special assistant to the senator in June 2001 when he moved with Edwards to Washington.
“I was the gatekeeper,” Young said his role at the time. “I took care of his briefing book. We spent a great deal of time together.”
Young testified he was the first to cultivate a relationship with Mellon after she called him in 2005. Mellon told him in that conversation she had been friends with the Kennedy brothers and she believed Edwards was the best of both, Young told jurors yesterday..
Read More: Bloomberg