Local Politics

Tempers flare in cross-examination of former Edwards aide

Posted April 26, 2012

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell cross-examines former John Edwards aide Andrew Young on April 25, 2012, during the criminal trial of the former presidential candidate. (Sketch by Christine Cornell)

— Tempers were short Thursday as the grueling cross-examination of the government's lead witness continued in the campaign finance violations case against two-time presidential candidate John Edwards.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, is charged with conspiracy, filing false campaign reports and four counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions in connection with the nearly $1 million two donors secretly paid in 2007-08 to hide Edwards' pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he ran for the White House.

During his fourth day on the witness stand, former Edwards aide Andrew Young continued to battle defense attorney Abbe Lowell at every turn as Lowell questioned Young's timeline of events in an attempt to undermine his credibility.

The defense has told jurors that Young is the person who schemed to get the bulk of the money from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, an elderly heiress in Virginia, so he could finance a lavish lifestyle and that Edwards knew nothing about it. The rest of the money, the defense said, was a gift from Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron, who was Edwards' campaign finance chairman, and wasn't a political contribution.

John Edwards case graphic WRAL.com archive: John Edwards case

Lowell repeatedly asked Young when and where conversations with Edwards occurred about securing money to keep Hunter quiet. Young seemed confused by some questions, said he couldn't recall the specifics of various incidents and often asked Lowell to repeat himself.

"Never mind, I'm withdrawing the question," a frustrated Lowell snapped at one point.

During a line of questioning about when and how Young learned of Hunter's pregnancy, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles expressed her own frustration with the pace of Lowell's argument, which appeared to have some jurors nodding off.

"You're about to beat a dead horse," an impatient Eagles told him.

Lowell suggested that Hunter never planned to expose the affair, so there was no reason to pay her off. Instead, he said, Young used the affair as leverage to remain close to Edwards and obtain money for himself.

"Isn't that just another way to have Mr. Edwards indebted to you?" Lowell asked about Young's initial claim that he was the father of Hunter's baby.

"That was not the thought process at that point," Young responded. "This was putting out a fire."

Andrew Young leaving courthouse Tense questioning of ex-Edwards aide by defense continues

After Young publicly made the claim – he says it was Edwards' idea to keep the media at bay during the early 2008 caucuses and primaries – he and his family jetted across the country, staying at resorts in south Florida and San Diego and at Baron's estate in Aspen, Colo.

Lowell suggested the adventure was like a vacation for Young, and for once, the witness agreed.

The defense also pointed out Young's spending on a $1.5 million home he was building in Chapel Hill, noting various change orders added a pool and a home theater at the time that money from Mellon was pouring into his bank account.

"We lost our sense of perspective," a somber Young acknowledged.

Lowell also brought up incidents involving an ATM card and a cellphone, nicknamed the "Batphone," that Edwards and Hunter used to communicate.

Elizabeth Edwards routinely checked the monthly records of personal and campaign cellphones after learning that her husband was having an affair, Young has said, so a special cellphone was needed. Likewise, Elizabeth Edwards was livid when she learned that her husband had allowed Hunter to use his ATM card on a shopping spree, according to testimony.

Lowell suggested that the two incidents pointed to John Edwards' need to hide his affair from his wife, not to get money for his campaign.

"Every dollar (from Mellon and Baron) went to you or your wife's account," he said to Young.

"That is correct," Young replied.

The cross-examination is expected to continue Friday, when Young's wife, Cheri, could also be called as a witness for the prosecution.


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  • GroupOfPricklyPears Apr 27, 2012

    That's the defense? It's all Young's fault? Seems like a feeble defense. Maybe the defense team thinks it's a really low jury? I don't get it.

  • walkindogs Apr 27, 2012

    I like how it seems more like Young is on trial instead of Edwards. Edwards had plenty of time to deal with his "health" issues and scheme to make Young look like the criminal.

  • marek335 Apr 27, 2012

    i am sure the state had grounds and evidence for starting this case. there are a whole handful of serious charges againist JE! its a good thing to hold these people accountable and let the jury decide based on the whole sorry story. Please read the charges guys!

  • wildpig777 Apr 27, 2012

    object scientist- ever read Killin Lincoln? i find parallel circumstances with the edwards/young/prosecutor 3 ring circus going on at present... why would the state put young as a star primary witness knowing he is so corrupt-- and offer immunity -- edwards gonna get a hung jury outta this--which is exactly what he wants--- an you must question the competence of the prosecutors office......... and im not even a lawyer..

  • Dave Green Apr 27, 2012

    Did any of these people report their additional income when they filed their taxes?

  • itsmyownopinion Apr 27, 2012

    I have no use for Young, and I don't think he should have been given immunity. He appears to be the leader insofar as the money and the cover up are concerned. Unless I misunderstand it, he's the one who knew Bunny Mellon first and introduced Edwards to her, and his wife kept the books, and they have been enriched by this whole scheme.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 27, 2012

    "the legal system.... you should question why the states star witness has such a slease factor- young admitted yesterday that most of the million bux went to build his dream home in chapel hill-- so you think he tole edwards --hey buddy- im gonna misapropreiate this money so i can build a home? would you being on the jury give ANY CREDUBILITY to anything young had further to say? then theres the sex tape young refused to give up--black mail? duh? and the prosecutor gave young immunity? you dont see a pattern here?" - post by wildpig777 - April 27, 2012 10:42 a.m.

    wildpig777 - with all due respect, you still have not made a case for a conspiracy. You raise interesting questions. No doubt some "bad decisions" have been made and that may reveal the "messiness" and the "hectic nature" of this entire affair, and perhaps some incompetence, but a conspiracy? I still an unable to "buy" that a significant number of people IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM have CONSPIRED in any way!

  • wildpig777 Apr 27, 2012

    based upon youngs testimony i expect charges to be leveled against his wife......... to be sure she hasnt been given immunity as well................

  • wildpig777 Apr 27, 2012

    learn from the master- grasshopper.

  • wildpig777 Apr 27, 2012

    If Young has now admitted that the Bunny money went into his own accounts and from there to pay for his (Young's) new house, then this trial could be over very quickly.

    Ya think? lol maybe the question should be asked -- Why did the prosecutor give immunity to one such as Young? many many unanswered questions coming out in this rats nest...... COULD THIS BE --THE PERFECT CONSPIRACY?