Testimony in the campaign finance fraud trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards isn’t going any better for the former senator, following statements from the wife of a senior aide in testimony that began Monday and continued into Tuesday.
At issue is whether Edwards illicitly funneled campaign donations towards his mistress Rielle Hunter and her minders, Cheri and Andrew Young, in an attempt to keep her quiet and away from the press. Cheri, spouse of Edwards’ former assistant Andrew Young, testified under cross-examination on Tuesday that she and her husband released a book about their experiences with Edwards not to make money, but to get the truth out about his dealings.
“It was a lie when we accepted paternity for your client and that is why we are here today,” she told Edwards defense attorney Alan Duncan, who says the couple made a handsome profit from a from a tell-all book about Edwards and the extramarital affair with Hunter, which resulted in a pregnancy. He also says they kept as much as $1 million given by wealthy campaign supporters while concealing the entire scandal. “I came here because I had to come here,” she said. “The only reason my husband had to write the book is because Mr. Edwards did not come forward and tell the truth.”
When pushed, Young admitted she and her husband had made money, but she insisted it was her discomfort with Edwards’ dishonesty that encouraged her to come forward. Andrew Young acknowledged in testimony last week that they kept more than $1 million in campaign donations from Edwards supporters Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Texas lawyer Fred Baron.
The examination was a continuation of Monday’s testimony in which Young stated that Edwards promised her that depositing supporters’ checks in a bank account the couple shared would not violate campaign finance rules. On the witness stand she said she listened to a conversation between her husband and Edwards after she questioned the movement of hundreds of thousands of dollars through the account, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
With a hunch that depositing the checks might be illegal, she asked her husband to contact Edwards and as she listened in, he told Young that he had asked his campaign finance advisers and they told him that it was legal. “I heard Mr. John Edwards tell me on the phone,” Cheri Young said Monday morning, about the call. “He was very short and very angry.”
However, the money was actually meant to provide for Hunter, who was then pregnant with the senator’s child. Young said that everyone, including her husband, was in on the scheme to hide Hunter except her. But she agreed to move ahead with it out of fear. “The campaign would explode and I would be responsible. So I ultimately agreed to go along with the lie.”
Meanwhile, trial judge Catherine Eagles is allowing testimony about a sex tape made by Edwards and Hunter to be admitted in court. The video itself won’t be shown to jurors, but testimony is expected to reveal whether Andrew Young stole the tape from Hunter and tried to blackmail her with it when the scandal was leaking.
The Young have been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony and face no criminal charges. Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.