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UPDATE: Former John Edwards aide Andrew Young took the stand Tuesday during Day 2 of the federal trial that could send his former boss to jail for 30 years.
Young, the prosecution’s key witness, told the court about the intricate system he said Edwards had developed in order to hide his mistress from the media and to financially support her after she threatened to go public with the affair.
Young testified about how he was asked to use an elaborate check-cashing scheme to funnel money to Rielle Hunter. The Los Angeles Times explains that, according to Young, the money came from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, an elderly banking heiress from Virginia who would route the money to Edwards by writing checks to Mellon's interior designer. The designer would then endorse the checks over to Young's wife, who would in turn deposit them under her maiden name, before then passing the money on to Hunter.
Edwards’ relationship with Mellon began after the heiress offered to pay for the $400 haircuts that threatened to tarnish the former senator’s public image, according to Young. That same heiress, now aged 101, allegedly offered to donate $1.2 million over time to Edwards. As the Associated Press notes, federal law limits donations to $2,300 per donor in an election cycle.
When Hunter told Edwards she was pregnant, Edwards asked Young to claim paternity to "give the press something they would understand, an affair between two staffers," Young said, adding this less-than-delicate pull quote: "He said she was a crazy slut and there was a 1-in-3 chance that it [the child] was his."
Young released a tell-all book in 2010 about the scandal called The Politician. You can read more about Day 2 of the trial in the AP’s latest report here.
Monday, April 23: John Edwards' trial for campaign finance violations kicked off in North Carolina on Monday with prosecutors painting a picture of a man who would stop at nothing in his bid to become president.
The Associated Press reports that the biggest revelation from Day One of proceedings was that former Edwards aide Andrew Young—expected to be the government's chief witness—reached out to other witnesses in the case ahead of the trial to ask about what they planned to say on the stand, a possible violation of federal law. You can read more about that development here.
Edwards faces six counts of campaign finance violations for allegedly using $1 million from two wealthy donors to keep the affair that ultimately derailed his political career a secret during his 2008 presidential campaign. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, however, contends that the money was given by friends trying to prevent his wife from learning of the affair, not keeping it secret to further his presidential aspirations, Politico reports.
Edwards' team also contends that much of the money in question wasn't even used to support his pregnant mistress, and was instead siphoned off by Young and his wife to build a $1.5 million dream home. Young had initially claimed paternity when reports first surfaced that the mistress, Rielle Hunter, was pregnant with Edwards' child. Edwards' wife died of breast cancer in 2010.
As the New York Times explains, the final verdict is likely to come down to whom the jury believes more: Edwards or Young, who has been granted immunity in this trial and will testify for the prosecution. The judge ruled Monday that the defense team could tell the jury about Young's contact with the other witnesses but cannot refer to it as "witness tampering."
Hunter is also on the witness list for both the prosecution and defense. It is unclear whether Edwards, a former trial lawyer, will testify, and to what extent he will participate in his defense.
If convicted, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.