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Entries in Trial (11)

Tuesday
Apr242012

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

Monday
Apr232012

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

Friday
Apr132012

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

Thursday
Oct272011

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

Wednesday
Oct262011

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

Monday
Jun272011

Rod Blagojevich Guilty of Trying to Sell Obama's Senate Seat

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The jury in the retrial of Rod Blagojevich found the former Illinois governor guilty on 17 corruption charges, including fraud, attempted extortion, and soliciting bribes.

Those verdicts include the charges of conspiring to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.  The jury was deadlocked on two others.

U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel will set sentencing for a later date.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Blagojevich faces up to a decade in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun272011

Blagojevich Trial: Jurors Reach Verdict, Announcement Coming Monday

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- A federal jury in Chicago has reached an undisclosed verdict in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of corruption and trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when President Obama was elected in 2008.

The jurors reportedly told the judge Monday morning they have agreed on 18 of 20 counts.

The verdict is expected to be announced Monday afternoon.

This is the second trial for the Democrat. A previous trial ended with a jury hung on all but one charge, although he has maintained his innocence. But federal prosecutors elected to bring the case again.

The jury in the new trial -- eleven women and one man -- reached its decision after nearly 10 days of deliberation. Federal prosecutors streamlined their presentation after the first jury complained of an overly complex case. Last year's result was a hung jury on 23 of the original 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich on a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI.

This time, the colorful ex-governor took a huge gamble by testifying in his own defense. Legal analysts called it "a hail Mary pass." Even the judge, James Zagel, told Blagojevich in court that it was probably his best chance to beat the rap.

For seven days, Blagojevich took the stand in an attempt to counter hundreds of FBI wiretaps that, prosecutors argued, demonstrated his maneuvering to peddle the vacated Senate seat of the newly elected Barack Obama. In perhaps the most infamous recording, the then governor is heard saying, "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I, I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."

Jurors also heard recordings that, prosecutors said, showed Blagojevich scheming to sell the Senate seat to allies of U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for more than $1 million in campaign contributions. Jackson has insisted he had no knowledge of any "unauthorized" efforts on his behalf.

On the stand, Blagojevich argued he was merely engaged in speculative political horse-trading. His lawyers contended the FBI tapes amounted to nothing but bluster. "He talked and talked and that's all he did," lead defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said.

But federal prosecutors compared Blagojevich to a cop asking a stopped motorist for a bribe. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told the jury: "The law focuses on 'the ask,' not on whether there was a receipt. The harm is done when 'the ask' is made."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

Indicted John Edwards Insists 'I Did Not Break the Law'

John Edwards (L) exits the Federal Courthouse with his daughter Cate Edwards and speaks to a crowd of reporters in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Steve Exum/Getty Images (WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- Speaking after a federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., handed down a six-count indictment against former senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday, he says he did nothing illegal.

Edwards was indicted for allegedly using more than $900,000 in campaign funds to hide his mistress during the 2008 Democratic presidential race.

"There's no question that I've done wrong and I take full responsibility for having done wrong," said Edwards today. "And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I've caused to others. But I did not break the law and I never, ever thought that I was breaking the law."

Edwards faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail and or a fine of up to $250,000 for each charge, if convicted.

The charges, following a two-year investigation, include conspiracy, illegal campaign contributions and making false statements.

"This is an unprecedented prosecution, much less an unprecedented civil case," Gregory Craig, lead counsel to John Edwards, said Friday. "No one would have known or should have known or could have been expected to know that these payments would be treated or should be considered as campaign contributions and there is no way that Senator Edwards knew that fact either. He will enter a plea of not guilty, he has broken no law, and we will defend this case vigorously."

The case against North Carolina Democrat, which called on more than 100 witnesses, will seek to prove that hundreds of thousands of dollars were allegedly used illegally to seclude and support his mistress Rielle Hunter, so Edwards could continue his campaign for the presidency in 2008.

The federal investigation of Edwards began a few months after the National Enquirer had cornered him at a Beverly Hills hotel in October 2007. The supermarket tabloid began to run a series of stories alleging that an adulterous affair occurred between Edwards and Hunter, his former campaign worker.

A few weeks later, in an exclusive interview with ABC's "Nightline," Edwards finally admitted to the affair -- but denied paternity of Hunter's child. In the interview, Edwards also said that he was in the dark about the expensive scheme to keep Hunter out of the public eye.

Edwards' lawyers have argued the hundreds of thousands of dollars were gifts from friends of the former senator, who intended to keep the affair secret from his wife Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar042011

Prosecutors Wrap Up Investigation in John Edwards' Case

ABC News(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- The moment of truth seems to be fast approaching for John Edwards as lawyers involved in the case say federal prosecutors have wrapped up their grand jury investigation and await a decision on whether the former presidential candidate should face criminal charges.

The key question is whether Edwards knew that money from supporters of his 2008 presidential campaign was paid to his mistress to keep her quiet and out of the public eye while he ran for President and she had his baby.

When Edwards announced he was running for President, his mistress, campaign filmmaker Rielle Hunter, was there just a few feet away from Edwards' now deceased wife, Elizabeth.

When the National Enquirer later broke the story of the affair and the baby, Edwards denied any involvement, and two of his big contributors provided tens of thousands of dollars that ended up supporting the mistress.

"The two things that they have to prove would be first, that the money that was paid to this woman was done for the purpose of influencing the election and secondly, that it was done with Mr. Edwards' knowledge or in coordination with him," Gerald Herbert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, told ABC News.

Edwards' mistress testified before the grand jury in North Carolina last year, bringing Edwards' daughter, Frances Quinn, along for the session.  But the most damning evidence may have come from Edwards' former aide, Andrew Young, who said that at Edwards' request, Young claimed he was the father.

Young told ABC News he was part of an elaborate cover-up Edwards helped to orchestrate, even if he didn't know all the details.

"But he knew about the money.  He knew about the methodology.  He knew about the sources," Young said.

Young gave prosecutors messages left on his phone by Edwards, seemingly expressing his gratitude for his help in the cover-up.

"I just wanted you to hear that and to once again to tell you I love you…uhh…I really love you Andrew," one of the messages said.

Herbert said that as far as criminal charges, a distinction of intention would have to be made between Edwards spending the money for personal reasons, which is not necessarily a criminal action, and spending money in an attempt to improperly influence the election.

According to lawyers in the case, a decision on the next step will come by the end of the month.

As an indication of just how big a problem Edwards may have, it was revealed Thursday that Edwards had hired one of Washington's top lawyers, Greg Craig, former White House counsel for President Obama who helped defend Bill Clinton over allegations of his affairs. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

Senate Starts Rare Impeachment Trial

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- All the talk in Washington is about the new compromise to extend the Bush tax cuts, but the Senate Tuesday morning was focused on something altogether different: the impeachment trial of a federal judge, only the 12th one in Senate history.

Federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., of Louisiana, was impeached by the House in March on corruption charges. The prosecution has argued that Porteous received cash, gifts, and additional favors from lawyers and other people that dealt with his court, while the defense has objected by arguing the conduct in question occurred before his 1994 appointment to the federal bench and he was never accused of a crime.

If two-thirds of the Senate this week votes to convict him on any of the four counts of impeachment, Porteous would become only the eighth federal judge in history to be impeached. If this occurs, Porteous would not only be removed from office immediately, but he would also lose his pension benefits. In order to qualify for a pension equal to his salary of $174,000, Porteous, who turns 64 next week, needs to serve until age 65.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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