Local Politics

Ex-aide says he feared Edwards would have him killed

Posted April 27, 2012

— In their last meeting before Andrew Young took the witness stand this week to testify against his former boss, John Edwards, Young feared for his life as the two men exchanged heated words on a deserted Orange County road, he said Friday.

Young, a former aide to the two-time presidential candidate, was testifying for a fifth day in Edwards' criminal trial. Edwards 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 his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he ran for the White House.

Young initially claimed paternity of Hunter's daughter to shield Edwards' campaign from media speculation about an affair and any negative publicity during the early primaries and causes in the 2008 campaign.

He says Edwards repeatedly promised to take care of Young and his family for covering up the affair, but he became more skeptical that Edwards would follow through with a job and other compensation as contact between them became more infrequent after Edwards dropped out of the race in January 2008 and Hunter's baby was born a month later.

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

During an August 2008 meeting, Edwards led Young out into the country near their Chapel Hill homes before pulling off to the side of a rural road, Young said.

"At one point, I was scared for my life," he testified.

"You thought Mr. Edwards was going to physically harm you?" defense attorney Abbe Lowell asked.

"Not Mr. Edwards personally," Young replied.

Lowell asked whether Young thought Edwards was leading him into an ambush.

"That did cross my mind, yes sir," Young said. "I was up against two billionaires and a multimillionaire former presidential candidate. I was scared."

Days before the meeting, Edwards gave a national television interview in which he admitted to the affair but denied being the baby's father. Young said he wanted Edwards to publicly admit that he, not Young, fathered Hunter's child.

"He put my family through heck," Young testified, flashing some emotion after four days of answering questions in a fairly flat tone.

"We did everything we could that he asked us to do, but he walked away from us," he said of Edwards.

Sketch of Andrew Young on witness stand Ex-aide shows first emotion after week of testifying against Edwards

Young said he had evidence to use against Edwards, if needed, and Lowell questioned him whether he was trying to blackmail the former U.S. senator at that point.

"My message was I was angry and he hadn't lived up to what he promised to do," Young replied. "I was going to tell the truth."

"The truth as you call it," Lowell said.

"As I call it? It is the truth, sir," Young said.

The lawyer danced around references to a videotape purported to show Edwards and Hunter having sex that Young possessed at the time. Prosecutors objected when Lowell tried to ask Young about it, and U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles told Lowell not to mention the tape.

As he has done since he began cross-examining Young on Wednesday, Lowell pointed out inconsistencies between Young's courtroom testimony and passages in his 2010 tell-all book, "The Politician," interviews and speeches he gave and his testimony before a federal grand jury three years ago.

He noted that Young received several checks from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a Virginia heiress and Edwards supporter, days after calling her and that the money helped fund a lavish lifestyle for Young and his family.

Young admitted Thursday that Mellon's money went into the same bank account as the family's other income and that spending on construction of a home in Chapel Hill got out of control during that period.

On Friday, Lowell questioned Young about an accounting of expenses tied to Hunter that he put together for a civil suit she filed against him and his wife over possession of the sex tape and personal photos. In a column titled "Expenses due to the affair," he included the cost of a $3,700 Disney cruise for his family and a 2008 trip he and his wife took to Mexico.

Young said both trips were taken to relieve stress after he left the Edwards campaign and was forced to live with Hunter, whom he has described as demanding and moody.

Lowell also reviewed copies of Young's 2007 and 2008 income tax returns, which Young said he had amended to account for any gift taxes associated with money he had provided Hunter.

Young acknowledged that he had received more than $700,000 from Mellon during that period and that Fred Baron, a Texas trial lawyer who was Edwards' campaign finance chairman, paid $335,000 toward the construction of the Young's new home and thousands more on private jets and luxury hotels as Young and Hunter hid from the media during the campaign.

Yet, the tax returns list only $135,361 as gifts to Hunter in 2007 and $56,389 the following year.

The defense maintains that Young schemed to get money from Mellon – the bulk of the money Edwards is charged with concealing – to support his extravagant spending and that Edwards knew nothing about it. The rest of the money, the defense says, was a gift from Baron to help hide the affair from Edwards' wife and wasn't a political contribution.

Lowell also questioned Young about his contact with three defense witnesses before the trial. On Monday, the defense revealed that Young had a sexual encounter with one of the witnesses in 2007.

Young said he asked the woman about "a personal matter." When asked whether he said she would "mess everything up" by testifying, he said he couldn't recall, but under additional questioning by prosecutors, he said that, if he used those terms, he wasn't referring to the Edwards case.

Young briefly broke down on the witness stand when talking about the sacrifices his wife has made through the years while he worked for Edwards. A short time later, prosecutors called Cheri Young as their second witness. She began detailing how her husband did everything for the Edwards family to the detriment of his own family and is expected to continue testifying Monday.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • unc70 Apr 27, 2012

    Objective, I can not see how Edwards could not remember those four key words: Gary Hart, Fatal Attraction. Or be so naive and inept at having an affair, and with Hunter/Druck who even I knew about nearly 20 years ago. No sure if his initial denial of paternity was a lie; reportedly two other men worried it might be theirs.

    I believe this trial is well worth the money, but not the multi-year investigation to produce this fraud of an indictment. There is no way George Holding would not have traced the money to Young and his builder. Even if Edwards had known about the money Young received, still not quite a violation say all the FEC experts. Lots of questions for after the trial.

    John and Elizabeth had the ability to discuss issues in ways that helped everyone work together, instead of calling each other names. While we yelled at each other it was hard to see everything we agreed, and insurance won and del lost
    John and Elizabeth Edwards

  • CuriousT Apr 27, 2012

    The grownups in all this will not really be held responsible. That's sad.

    But the real "victims" here are all the kids involved. How they're able to hold up their heads knowing that people around them are saying ugly (but TRUE) things about their parents.....I don't know.

    I feel most for little Frances. One day when she's old enough, she's going to have it in black and white that HER FATHER NEVER WANTED HER. That's going to be a really tough thing for her to know. Suspecting that is one thing. To have it become public knowledge is just going to be one more hurdle for her to get over in life.

    Sadly, it's always the children that pay the biggest price here.

  • jrwaterway Apr 27, 2012

    Robbins people are so ashamed of him, especially the way he treated his poor dead wife and children.

  • sunshine1040 Apr 27, 2012

    Did Young lie Or Did Edwards lie? Yes to both you would have a better chance of getting a conviction if you charged them with blackmail and prostitution or trying to hire a prostitute

  • hp277 Apr 27, 2012

    Edwards is a cheater.

    Young is a liar.

  • GALNC Apr 27, 2012

    Objective Scientist said it best..."I am incredibly, extremely DISGUSTED with Edwards - afterall, he was THE CANDIDATE - but I am also disgusted with Elizabeth Edwards, Andrew Young, Young's wife, Hunter... and I'm sure that list can have additions. All of those people, perhaps with the exception of "gold-digger" Hunter, sought our trust, support, and directly or indirectly, our vote. Lesson for all... be very VERY careful before jumping on ANYONE'S "bandwagon"!!!"

    At the end of the day, Elizabeth, John, Andrew, Cheri and Rielle were all ready to scam for the White House. I feel bad for Elizabeth and the betrayal she must have felt..but also felt like she played the part in standing by her man to be First Lady. While Edwards knows how to manipulate..Andrew Young was a schemer has well. It's a cast of fools day in court. The poor kids have to live with all these people...what role models do they have to develop any sort of moral compass.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 27, 2012

    Edwards was a TRUE LIGHTWEIGHT, not even a FEATHERWEIGHT, with regard to knowledge of the nation and the world and ability to be the most powerful person in the world and lead this great country! If elected, he would NOT have been a good president. He simply did not - does NOT have the ability! Folks... look at candidates for office with a "critical eye". Set aside your partisan political biases and don't be swayed or charmed or entranced by "good hair and pretty faces" and a person's ability to passionately string two or three sentences together in a reasonably articulate manner! That, sadly, is all that Edwards turned out to be! Closer scrutiny - early on - may have prevented him from coming so close to being in at least some high office of the land.

  • wildpig777 Apr 27, 2012

    heres one for yall -- do ya think the NORTH CArolina bar will take ANY ACTION? i hold the nc bar in total contempt, the contempt the nc bar so amply deserves...

  • City Boy Apr 27, 2012

    This is all so disgusting, and to think people actually stood in awe of this creep as a viable Presidential candidate. whats wrong with that picture?

    Young is a pathetic human being in an expensive suit...go figure. What have we come to that this is all we have to offer. My (3) dogs have more class and character.

  • UreapwhatUsow Apr 27, 2012

    oh puh-leese, Johnny boy is the one in the wrong here! And Young's fear of him is NOT unfounded. Don't think for a minute that John boy, being the lawyer that he is, didn't know the correct strategies for avoiding conviction of a crime. By the way, does anyone know where the "love child" and the mother is now? poor kid, she's got alot to live with, it's the whispers that will hurt the most.