Entries in Rielle Hunter (12)


John Edwards Trial: Witness Says Money Earmarked to Hide Mistress Was 'For His Benefit'

Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The government wrapped up the second week of its case-in-chief with something of a bombshell/cliffhanger combination for jurors to ponder over the weekend, when a witness revealed that John Edwards had acknowledged that the money earmarked to hide his mistress was "for his benefit."

After a day of colorful testimony from interior designer Bryan Huffman focusing on the "Bunny Money" that contributed to the cover-up of Edwards' affair, Bunny Mellon's attorney Alexander Forger, a stately New Yorker with a booming baritone voice, was called to the stand.

Forger described his efforts in 2008 to unravel the mystery of the secret payments--totaling $725,000--that Mellon funneled through Huffman to Edwards aide Andrew Young. The checks were disguised as payments for furniture.

"Our furniture business did not involve furniture," Huffman had testified. "It was money for Senator Edwards."

Forger said that in late 2008 he spoke to Edwards about the payments, by then having traced the checks to an account controlled by Young.

Edwards denied knowing about the money and told Forger that he was sorry Young had bilked Mellon and thought Young ought to pay her back.

But Forger said that in a subsequent conversation with Wade Smith, Edwards' attorney at that time, the lawyer told him: "John has said, yes. He acknowledges now that this was for his benefit."

As a hush fell over the courtroom, prosecutor Robert Higdon suggested it would be a good time to stop for the day, denying Edwards' attorneys the chance to jump into cross examination. That was the last thing the jury heard before the weekend break.

It was not clear from Forger's testimony when Edwards learned about Mellon's money.

Edwards is charged with violating campaign finance laws by using nearly $1 million from wealthy donors to hide his pregnant girlfriend, Rielle Hunter. He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John Edwards' Ex-Aide Says Secret Checks Were for 'Furniture'

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- John Edwards' former aide testified Tuesday that he and his wife were "scared to death" as they accepted checks as large as $150,000 marked as payment for furniture when the money was really meant to help hide Edwards' affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter.

The testimony by the prosecution's key witness, Andrew Young, came on day two of Edwards' trial, in which he is accused of conspiring with others to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions during the 2008 presidential race to cover up his affair.

Young testified Tuesday that Edwards had approached several people about donating money that he needed and that most said no.

In the spring and early summer of 2007, Edwards told Young to "approach [Bunny] Mellon and ask for a non-campaign expense, something that would benefit him," Young said Tuesday.

Edwards suggested Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a wealthy philanthropist, because she had offered to help pay for some of Edwards' personal expenses after his notorious $400 haircuts became a campaign issue.

Young also testified about the complex system they allegedly devised in order to keep the money trail away from the campaign.

Mellon made the personal checks out to her friend and interior decorator, who would co-sign checks with Young's wife in the wife's maiden name, he said. He testified that Mellon was very businesslike.

"I told her it was a non-campaign event and it would benefit Mr. Edwards and we needed her help," Young told the court Tuesday.

Young said his wife would then deposit the checks into their own account.

"She thought it was crazy and was scared to death," Young said Tuesday about his wife's initial reaction. "My wife was scared. We were scared. He [Edwards] was a viable presidential candidate."

Eventually his wife relented, he said, as Edwards insisted that it was not illegal and that no one was going to get in trouble.

"This was a truckload of money -- more money than had ever flew through our account," Young said. "Edwards said it was completely legal, that it was a non-campaign expense. There might be some tax consequences for the donors, but not for us."

The first two checks from Mellon were $10,000 and $25,000 in the summer of 2007, he said. By September more checks were received in the amounts of $65,000, $100,000 and $150,000, he said. They came with notes on the subject line that they were for "antique Charleston table" and other pieces of furniture, he testified.

Young testified that although he and his wife felt uneasy and that the plan "smelled wrong," they thought Edwards, who was a lawyer, knew more about the law than they did.

Young stared straight ahead during his testimony and Edwards stared straight at Young.

Young, a once-close friend and political aide to Edwards, is accused of funnelling money to Hunter and falsely claiming that her child was his. Young, who is married with three children, took an immunity deal with the prosecution. He has maintained that the plan to hide Hunter was Edwards' idea.

Edwards' former aide also described how people around the campaign and Edwards' wife began to notice that the candidate was having an affair.

Young said that he and Edwards were having drinks with the former senator's then-law partner David Kirby and Hunter.

Young testified that Kirby had asked him "What the f--k is going on?" after seeing Hunter and Edwards cuddling.

"He's your friend," Young said he told Kirby at the time. "You know him better than I do."

Young also talked about the moment when Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, realized something was going on. John Edwards was asleep and Hunter called his cellphone. Elizabeth Edwards picked up and didn't say anything as Hunter started talking because she thought it was her lover who had picked up.

After Elizabeth Edwards hung up without speaking, she woke her husband and told him to fire Hunter.

John Edwards fired Hunter the next morning, but the relationship continued. Elizabeth Edwards, who was battling cancer at the time, switched cellphones with her husband. But to get around this, Young would call to talk to John Edwards and then would three-way call Hunter so they could speak to one another without Elizabeth Edwards finding out.

Young testified that when John Edwards found out that Hunter was pregnant, he was angry and very concerned.

"He said that she was a crazy slut and there was only a one-in-three chance that it was his child," Young testified.

He said in mid-December, in what he compared to a campaign stump speech, Edwards asked him to claim paternity of Hunter's unborn child.

"He talked about how this was bigger than all of us -- getting kids out of Iraq, didn't want Mrs. Edwards to die with this splashed all over the tabloids," Young testified.

Even with the National Enquirer citing the Edwards affair but not naming Hunter, Young said Edwards said the media would eventually lose interest if they thought it was a relationship between two staffers.

"They don't give a s--t about you," Young said Edwards told him. "They want me."

During opening statements Monday, prosecutor David Harbach said that John Edwards had made a choice to break the law.

But Edwards' defense team countered Monday that the former lawmaker's actions were not illegal.

"The truth may be a sin, but it is not a crime," said Edwards' attorney Allison Van Laningham. "Follow the path of money....The evidence will show it went into the pockets of Andrew and [wife] Cheri Young."

Edwards faces six charges, including one count of conspiracy, and up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John Edwards Trial: 'Truth May Be a Sin ... Not a Crime'

Steve Exum/Getty Images(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- On Monday, during the opening statements of his trial in Greensboro, N.C., two-time presidential candidate John Edwards was accused of illegally using campaign funds during the 2008 presidential race to cover up his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, a videographer for the campaign.

"If his affair went public it would destroy his candidacy, and he knew it," said prosecutor David Harbach. "His mistress was a loose cannon, and he knew it. He made a choice to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars. He made a choice to break the law. That is why we are here."

Edwards' defense team said that while its client's actions may have been deplorable, they were not illegal.

"John Edwards is not afraid of the truth. He welcomes it," said Edwards' attorney Allison Van Laningham. "The truth may be a sin, but it is not a crime. John Edwards has not asked us to paint a picture of him as virtuous....He admits he cheated. He admits he lied."

At the time of the affair, Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, was battling cancer. She died in December 2010, less than a year after Edwards admitted he was the father of Hunter's daughter.

Laningham contends that Edwards tried to hide his affair to avoid embarrassment, not to preserve his presidential aspirations.

The prosecution's key witness in the case is Andrew Young, a once-close friend and political aide to Edwards who allegedly conspired with the former senator in an elaborate and expensive scheme to hide Hunter. Young, who has an immunity deal with prosecutors, falsely claimed paternity of Hunter's child during the campaign and issued a public statement to throw the political press corps off the scent of the scandal. Young has said the ruse was Edwards' idea.

The prosecution aims to prove that Edwards illegally conspired with Young, a married man with three children of his own, and others to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash to hide Hunter. Edwards' defense maintains that the money came in the form of private gifts that were not related to the campaign.

"Follow the path of the money. Where did it come from? Where did it go?" said Laningham. "The evidence will show it went into the pockets of Andrew and Cheri Young. And into the wood, stones and walls of their $1.5 million home in Chapel Hill."

Edwards faces six charges that include one count of conspiracy, four counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements. If convicted on all counts, Edwards could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John Edwards’ Daughter May Testify in His Criminal Trial

Steve Exum/Getty Images(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- Cate Edwards, the oldest daughter of John Edwards and his late wife, Elizabeth, is among the witnesses who may be called to testify in the criminal trial that could send her father to prison for up to 30 years. Her name appeared among a list of dozens of potential witnesses who could be called by the defense team.

A newly married graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, Cate Edwards recently put her own fledgling legal career on hold to launch an educational foundation in her mother’s name.

She accompanied her father to court last June on the day federal prosecutors announced a six-count indictment against the former Democratic presidential candidate, who’s accused of accepting nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions that were allegedly used to cover up his extra-marital affair with Rielle Hunter.

Cate Edwards has not commented publicly about the criminal case, and there’s no indication that she was aware of the efforts to hide her father’s affair.

Jury selection got under way this week for the highly anticipated trial, which is set to begin April 23, and is expected to last at least six weeks.  Edwards has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his defense team has assailed the government’s case as a “crazy” and “radical” interpretation of campaign finance laws.

The defense team’s witness list, which was filed late Thursday, also includes, in addition to Cate Edwards, Rielle Hunter, and a host of former political staff members, some of whom have gone on to work in the Obama administration.

The prosecution’s witness list is headlined by Andrew Young, a former aide to Edwards who handled the money for the alleged cover-up, and once falsely claimed paternity of the daughter Edwards fathered with Hunter.  Young, who wrote a book about the scandal and struck a deal with prosecutors for his testimony, is expected to be the key witness for the government.

The judge overseeing the case has ruled that all the witnesses will be sequestered, with the exception of Edwards’ immediate family.  So Cate Edwards will be free to observe the trial.

She was among the spectators in the courtroom this week as nearly 200 potential jurors filled out questionnaires in federal court in Greensboro, N.C.  U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, after introducing the well-known defendant to the pool of jurors, reminded them that this case is “not about whether Mr. Edwards was a good husband or politician.  It’s about whether he violated campaign finance laws.”

If John Edwards is convicted and sentenced to  prison, Cate Edwards could become the legal guardian of her two younger siblings -- Emma Claire,13, and Jack, 11 -- according to the terms of Elizabeth Edwards’ will. She died in December 2010.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rielle Hunter Settles John Edwards Sex Tape Suit

Steve Exum/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The long-running court battle over a sexually explicit videotape featuring former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his mistress, Rielle Hunter, was settled out of court Thursday, ABC News has learned.

According to North Carolina court officials and a Hunter spokesperson, Hunter and former Edwards aide Andrew Young, along with his wife Cheri, agreed to end their dispute more than two years after the case was originally filed.   Terms of the settlement were not immediately available, but Hunter spokesperson RoseMarie Terenzio told ABC News that “Ms. Hunter is very pleased.  She won.”

According to Terenzio’s statement, an alleged sex tape and a series of private photographs that were the center of the legal dispute will be returned to Hunter.

Hunter sued the Youngs in January 2010, claiming the couple had stolen from her a “personal and private” videotape that came to be known in court filings as “the Edwards sex tape.”   She asserted that the Youngs were using the tape to help promote Young’s book, The Politician, which chronicles Edwards’ 2008 run for the Democratic presidential nomination and the candidate’s affair with Hunter.

Edwards gave a lengthy deposition in the case that eventually ended up in the hands of federal prosecutors who are pursuing a felony campaign finance case against the one-time North Carolina senator. That trial had been scheduled to begin in January, but it has been delayed because Edwards needs treatment for a heart condition.

In the civil suit, Hunter claimed that the Youngs had entered her former rental home in North Carolina and took the tape from a hat-box containing her personal items. Young, who once falsely claimed to be the father of Hunter’s child, disputed Hunter’s account, claiming he found the tape partially damaged and discarded in a box of trash in another home they had all previously shared.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John Edwards' Attorneys Assail 'Crazy Theory' of Campaign Finance Case

Steve Exum/Getty Images(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- Attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards launched a blistering attack Wednesday on the prosecution’s campaign finance misuse case, calling the government’s theory “crazy” and “radical.”

Appearing before Judge Catherine Eagles in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C., lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell said the case should be tossed here and now.

”The formulation of the crime is a stretch in a radical way,” Lowell asserted.

In the defense’s view, the government has failed to properly allege a crime and, Lowell argued, there is no way that Edwards, or anyone, could have known that payments from third-party donors to support his pregnant mistress would amount to campaign law violations.

“Criminal laws are supposed to be written on the desks of members of Congress,” Lowell said in arguing the first of five defense motions to dismiss the case, “not on the desks of prosecutors who decide after the fact” what is permissible and what is not.

Edwards was charged in June with six felonies surrounding his alleged complicity in a scheme to solicit more than $900,000 from two wealthy donors, which was then used to seclude and support his pregnant mistress, all while Edwards continued his pursuit of the presidency.  Edwards entered not guilty pleas to all the counts.

The indictment alleges that the payments that aided Rielle Hunter -- and kept news of her pregnancy under wraps -- violated the election law limits on how much individual donors can contribute to a candidate’s campaign.  The conduct rises to a criminal level, the government contends, because Edwards and the donors willfully and knowingly violated the restrictions in a coordinated effort to protect and promote his campaign.

Later in the afternoon, Judge Eagles heard arguments on four additonal defense motions to dismiss the case, including allegations of a flawed grand jury process, an improperly charged conspiracy, improper venue and abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

The hearing will resume Thursday morning.  The Judge has not yet given any indication as to when she intends to rule on the motions to dismiss.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John Edwards' Legal Team Heads to Court Seeking Dismissal

Steve Exum/Getty Images(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- From the moment the ink dried on the federal indictment of John Edwards, his lawyers have been waging an all-out assault on the government’s case against the disgraced former Democratic presidential candidate. Edwards stands accused of six felonies in connection with an alleged cover-up of his extramarital affair during the 2008 election campaign.

Standing outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, N.C., last June, defense attorney Greg Craig pronounced: “This is an unprecedented prosecution. In the history of federal election campaign law, no one has ever been charged...with the claims that have been brought against Senator Edwards today.”

As Craig spoke out front, Edwards was being escorted around back into a small holding room, where he would experience the indignity of getting fingerprinted and photographed by U.S. Marshals.

“He has broken no law,” Craig concluded on the courthouse steps, “and we will defend this case vigorously.”

Moments later, Edwards entered not guilty pleas to all counts in the indictment.

Wednesday morning in Greensboro, N.C., Edwards’ legal team, now led by high-profile lawyer Abbe Lowell, will take those arguments and others before a federal judge, seeking dismissal of all the charges.  They’re challenging virtually every aspect of the indictment, including what Lowell has referred to as the government’s “radical theory,” that third-party payments to a candidate’s mistress could be considered campaign-related expenditures.

The government has charged Edwards with knowingly conspiring to accept more than $900,000 in illegal contributions from two wealthy donors in an effort to conceal his affair and support his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, while he was pursuing the Democratic nomination for president.  Each of the six felony counts carries the potential for five years imprisonment.

The prosecutors contend that those payments violate federal election laws which regulate contributions intended to influence the outcome of an election.  Edwards’ lawyers have countered that the payments were gifts to assist Hunter and former Edwards’ aide Andrew Young, and therefore not subject to contribution limits. Young claimed Edwards urged him to claim the love child was actually his so that Edwards' campaign could continue; a charade Young kept up for some time before Edwards was forced to come clean.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John Edwards Says There's No Conflict of Interest with His Attorney

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Democratic presidential candidate and current criminal defendant John Edwards submitted a letter in federal court Monday disputing the government’s suggestions that his defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, has potential conflicts of interest.

The letter, addressed to federal Judge Catherine Eagles, begins: ”As you know, I am myself an attorney and am aware of the law and rules concerning conflicts of interest.”

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors filed a motion with the court requesting a hearing on the government’s contention that Lowell’s previous representation of two likely prosecution witnesses could impact Edwards’ constitutional rights to an attorney free of conflicts.

“I have considered all the possibilities,” Edwards’ letter continues, ”and I do not see or believe there to be any conflict of interest or even potential conflict of interest between Mr. Lowell’s prior representations and his current representation of me.”

During the criminal investigation of Edwards’ campaign, Lowell represented Lisa Blue, the widow of Edwards’ former campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron.  Lowell also advised longtime Edwards’ pollster Harrison Hickman, who the government says was among a small clutch of confidants who made decisions about how to respond to allegations about his affair with Rielle Hunter.

In his letter, Edwards writes that he is “aware of all the issues” raised in the government’s motion and that even if the court were to determine a potential conflict exists, he agrees to “waive any such conflict.”

A brief from Lowell accompanying Edwards’ letter says the response should “assure the Court that any potential conflict of interest issues raised by the government have been carefully considered” and argues that “there is no need for the Court to conduct the extensive hearing suggested by the government in this matter.”

Lowell’s law firm also submitted to the court letters from Blue and Hickman, in which each stated that they had no objection to Lowell representing Edwards, even though both could be called as witnesses if the case goes to trial.

Edwards was charged in June in a six-count criminal indictment alleging that he participated in an illegal scheme to seclude and support his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, while Edwards was seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination.  The case centers on more than $900,000 from two wealthy donors: Baron, who died in 2008, and the 101-year-old heiress Rachel Mellon.  The government argues those payments were made in violation of federal election finance laws.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to all counts in the indictment.   A hearing is scheduled for next week on several defense motions to dismiss the charges.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds Say John Edwards' Lawyer Has Potential Conflicts of Interest

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Federal prosecutors pursuing the criminal case against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards Friday asked a judge in North Carolina to examine potential conflicts of interest involving Abbe Lowell, the high-powered attorney who heads Edwards’ legal team.

In particular, the government contends that Lowell’s prior representation of two likely prosecution witnesses could impact Edwards’ constitutional rights to conflict-free legal representation.

Edwards was charged in June in a six-count criminal indictment alleging that he participated in an illegal scheme to seclude and support his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, while Edwards was seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination. The case centers on more than $900,000 from two wealthy donors: 101-year-old heiress Rachel Mellon and former Edwards’ campaign finance chairman Fred Baron, who died in late 2008. The government contends those payments were made in violation of federal election finance laws.

During the criminal investigation of Edwards’ campaign, Lowell represented Baron’s widow, Lisa Blue, and longtime Edwards’ pollster Harrison Hickman, who the government contends was among a small clutch of confidants that made decisions about how to respond to allegations about the affair.

Lowell joined Edwards’ defense team in July after another prominent attorney, former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, withdrew. The government’s motion notes that the potential conflicts were discussed with Lowell prior to his official entry into the case.

According to the motion, Lowell contends there is no conflict because he no longer represents Hickman or Blue, and he is not in possession of any confidential information as a result of his prior relationships with them.

In a statement ABC News today, Lowell said, “We have discussed this issue with the government to its satisfaction; its inquiry to make a record is appropriate; and we will respond in a court filing.”

The government also notes that Lowell has denied ever having an attorney-client relationship with Fred Baron concerning the issues in this case, and that he told prosecutors he did not provide any advice to Baron or Blue about the filing of gift taxes.

But the government says in its motion that it has emails between Lowell and Rielle Hunter that appear to relate to “Mr. Lowell’s attempts to gather information from Ms. Hunter about monies Mr. Baron had given her and/or expenses of hers that Mr. Baron had paid in connection with the filing of gift tax returns for Mr. Baron.”

And though the government goes out of its way in the motion to make clear it is not accusing Lowell of improper conduct, the prosecutors raise the possibility that Lowell himself could become the subject of testimony because of his “potential conflicts.”

The government’s motion also details a previously undisclosed meeting at a hotel in late 2007, at which Elizabeth Edwards, in the presence of her husband, John Edwards, as well as Lisa Blue and Fred Baron, allegedly complained angrily that Baron and Blue had befriended Hunter and had been spending time with her. By that time, Hunter was pregnant, the National Enquirer was hot on the trail of the affair, and Edwards was still in a three-way race with Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and last month Lowell submitted a weighty barrage of motions seeking to dismiss the charges. Those motions will be addresses in a court hearing on Oct. 26.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John Edwards' Trial Delayed Until January

ABC News(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- John Edwards needs a little more time to review the prosecution's evidence against him.

The former North Carolina Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate has to go study 400,000 pages of materials that accuse him of illegally using $1 million in political contributions to allegedly pay off his mistress who was pregnant with Edwards' child when he started his failed campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination.

As a result, the trial, which could put Edwards behind bars for up to 30 years if convicted, will be pushed back from October to January 2012.

The multiple felony counts against Edward allege that when he paid off Rielle Hunter to stay quiet about the extramarital affair and the resulting pregnancy, Edwards falsified campaign finance reports to hide the relationship.

Edwards had the opportunity to cop a plea, provided he serve some jail time, but it was turned down because he's the sole caregiver of his children following the death of his estranged wife, Elizabeth Edwards, in 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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