Local Politics

Edwards' daughter leaves courtroom in tears

Posted May 2, 2012
Updated May 3, 2012

— After listening to testimony of her father's extramarital affair for eight days, John Edwards' daughter reached her breaking point Wednesday when discussion turned to how her late mother handled the infidelity.

Cate Edwards left the courtroom in tears for a brief time Wednesday afternoon as a prosecution witness started to recount how Elizabeth Edwards shared her fears in the summer of 2007 that her husband was still engaged in an affair with a campaign staffer months after saying he had ended the fling.

Christina Reynolds, who was research director and senior communications adviser for John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign, was one of several former campaign staffers to testify Wednesday.

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

Edwards turned to his daughter when discussion of Elizabeth Edwards began and asked her if she wanted to leave. He then bowed his head in his hand after she left.

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

Reynolds and Matthew Nelson, who served as the "body man" to Edwards, handling daily details as the candidate crisscrossed the country, both testified about an incident at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in December 2007, the day after the National Enquirer published a story about Edwards' affair.

Nelson said Elizabeth Edwards was clawing at her husband's face on the drive to the airport, and John Edwards kept asking her to stop.

"Is this what you do in the car together in New York?" Nelson said Elizabeth Edwards asked.

By the time they arrived at RDU's general aviation terminal to catch a private flight to Iowa, Elizabeth Edwards was screaming at her husband, the witnesses said.

"She stormed off and sort of collapsed in a ball in the parking lot," Reynolds said.

Staffers eventually calmed her down, and Nelson drove her home. She didn't make the campaign trip.

The campaign was on edge because of the Enquirer story and the fact that Hunter wanted to issue a flippant statement about alien abductions to deny it, Reynolds said.

Earlier Wednesday, Josh Brumberger, another body man for Edwards, told jurors that he was concerned about his boss' relationship with Hunter from early on.

Brumberger recounted the first time Edwards met Virginia heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, whose money would later be spent on Hunter, as well as his first meeting with Hunter herself.

He said Edwards went to Mellon's 4,000-acre estate in northern Virginia in December 2005, eliciting laughter from the jury when he noted it was “probably the first and only time in my life I will be taking off in a plane from someone’s front lawn.”

Sketch of Josh Brumberger on witness stand Former staffer's testimony breaks tension in Edwards trial

The mood in the courtroom during Brumberger's testimony was in stark contrast to the tension during the first eight days of the trial, as former Edwards aide Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri Young, testified.

Andrew Young was the government's star witness as prosecutors try to show that Edwards orchestrated the flow of donor money to Hunter to keep her happy and quiet and away from the media during the early stages of the 2008 campaign. Cheri Young helped bolster her husband's story by testifying that Edwards assured them that the secret payments were legal and even ordered them to "get the money in."

The defense has suggested that Andrew Young schemed to get money from Mellon – checks were sent through an interior decorator to Cheri Young and deposited into the family's bank account – to build a $1.5 million home in Chapel Hill and finance a lavish lifestyle.

Defense attorney Alan Duncan closed his cross-examination of Cheri Young on Wednesday morning by noting that she agreed to receive the checks, agreed to her husband claiming to be the father of Hunter's baby and agreed to travel across the country with her family and Hunter to avoid reporters.

"What kept you doing these things was the money, wasn't it?" Duncan asked her.

"No, sir," she replied.

Brumberger said Edwards' initial meeting with Mellon went well and that she was a big fan of the candidate, whom she likened to John F. Kennedy.

In August 2006, Brumberger sent an email to another campaign staffer after Edwards called Mellon on her birthday and talked with her about the campaign.

"JRE called. Bunny is still in LOVE,” the email read.

When asked by prosecutors what he meant by the email, Brumberger drew more laughter by stating, "I believe what I meant by that is Mrs. Mellon was still supportive of Mr. Edwards' causes."

Edwards, who glared at Andrew and Cheri Young throughout their testimony, even laughed at that comment.

Brumberger said he tried to keep Hunter away from Edwards when they first met at a bar in a New York hotel, and he said he was surprised to learn a few months later that she had been hired to produce behind-the-scenes videos of the campaign.

He said he became concerned after checking Hunter's website.

"There’s a lot of sex, drugs, rock and roll and astrology,” he said. "(It's) not necessarily the content but just how public she was with the content.”

When he expressed his concerns to Edwards, he said, Edwards said "Hunter looked a little nutty."

Hunter and Brumberger frequently clashed over how much access she had within the campaign, and he said Edwards would sometimes have to settle the disagreements after she complained.

"I had never seen Mr. Edwards so involved with staff minutia. That he actually cared about what she wanted to do was new to me," he testified.

Later, after Brumberger spotted Hunter coming out of Edwards' hotel, he said, he got into a heated exchange with his boss.

"If you thought I was (having an affair with) her, why didn’t you come to me like a man?” he recalled Edwards telling him.

He said that he had cautioned Edwards several times before but apparently should have been more “forceful.” He left the campaign shortly after that.

Brumberger said Edwards never admitted nor denied the affair to him.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Scubagirl May 3, 2012

    move along please, this is yesterdays news

  • superman May 3, 2012

    It is about the affair cause that is how the money was spent! Sorry but I havent had a mistress yet nor have I received a couple million dollars. Never had a traffic ticket or an accident either. Does that qualify me to express my opinion?

  • juneusvi2 May 3, 2012

    I really don't think it's about the money . I more believe its about the affair.This case is a waste of the peoples money. All the people who is against him how much of them is better. They need to dig in their own back yard before they inquire about his.The man without sin cast the first stone.

  • msncdso May 3, 2012

    Heavenly and other Edwards supporters; does anyone really believe Mellon or Baron would have contributed the first penny if they were not so determined to see Edwards be elected? Who knows if they even cared how sleazy he was in his personal life.

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 May 3, 2012

    I thought the daughter was a bigger person than she has shown. Did she not think they were not going to bring up the dirt on her daddy? Did she think they courts was going to sugar-coat it? Being an attorney herself, she should have known better. Maybe she should not have supported her daddy in court at all. PERIOD! What purpose is she serving by being there? If that was my daddy, I would be there everyday, just see what kind of man he think he is to want me to continue to call him daddy. I am that strong person. It would hurt my daddy seeing me there. Oh, well Cate has a lot of growing up to do.

  • donkeypendergraph May 3, 2012

    Great news wral! i just passed gas~

  • bombayrunner May 3, 2012

    Edwards is no different than a cartel kingpin using mules (the Youngs) to do his dirty work for his benefit. Simple. All they need to do is tie this together and convince the jury whether or not its true. At this point I think they are doing a good job of it. As one way or the other ... John will suffer -- even if he gets off.

  • bombayrunner May 3, 2012

    If he were not running for office, Bunny and Baron would have no reason to give him a dime.

    The horror stories of the affair, are needed as proof of a driving factor and how it was completely twisted up in the ranks of his campaign. It isnt separate.

  • bombayrunner May 3, 2012

    " Elizabeth Edwards was clawing at her husband's face " ... imagine that? I'm sure most dems will say this should be inadmissable as a personal matter.

  • bill0 May 3, 2012

    "Edwards is guilty of one of two crimes.

    If the money was a gift from Bunny Melon and Baron, Edwards is guilty of tax evasion for not reporting the gift on his tax return."

    You need a quick refresher course on gifts. The person who gets a gift owes zero, zilch, nada tax on it. They don't need to report it to the IRS at all. US tax law requires the person who GAVE the gift to declare it on a special form. No tax is owed at that point either unless it exceeds $5 million in total gifts. The only thing that happens is that the eventual estate tax exemption is reduced by the gift amount.