Local Politics

Witnesses point finger at Edwards' aide

Posted May 15, 2012

Most of the money that federal prosecutors contend was earmarked for John Edwards' pregnant mistress went instead to a former aide of the two-time presidential candidate, a former FBI agent testified Tuesday.

Jim Walsh's testimony capped a day of points scored by the defense in the 17th day of Edwards' criminal trial, but attention shifted late in the day to who might take the witness stand Wednesday.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell announced as court recessed for the day that Edwards' daughter Cate would testify and that Edwards himself, his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and former aide Andrew Young also might be called as witnesses.

The former U.S. senator is accused of masterminding a scheme to use nearly $1 million in secret payments from Virginia heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron to help hide Hunter as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all six charges.

Walsh, who investigated white-collar crime during his 25 years with the FBI, now runs his own business in Charlotte analyzing financial records. Edwards' defense team hired him last August to review Young's bank and credit card statements and Hunter's financial records.

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

Young and his wife were bleeding red ink for most of 2006-08, Walsh said, noting the couple spent more than they brought in during 25 of the 36 months. Three of the months they were in the black coincided with checks from Mellon that they deposited in their accounts, he said, while two others were because they deposited the proceeds from selling a house in Raleigh and they got a mortgage to build a house near Chapel Hill.

The Youngs' accounts were $344,000 in the red by the end of 2008, Walsh said, despite the fact that the couple had by then received $725,000 from Mellon and $345,000 from Baron.

Meanwhile, Baron wired $74,000 directly to Hunter's accounts between June and December 2008, Walsh said.

The timing of the deposits, which came months after Edwards had ended his candidacy, support the defense notion that Baron, who was Edwards' campaign finance chairman, was simply helping a friend in need and not making a campaign contribution.

Defense attorney Allison van Laningham also led Walsh through a methodical comparison of what Young claimed to have spent on Hunter and what the couple actually spent for her personal and medical expenses.

Some credit card charges didn't add up, family trips were included in a list of expenses Young had attributed to the affair, and the amounts the Youngs listed on gift tax forms with their annual tax returns were far less than the amounts they reported to Baron and later to prosecutors that they had spent on Hunter, Walsh said.

The defense has argued that Young milked Mellon for money without Edwards' knowledge in order to finance a lavish lifestyle.

Investigator says money trail points to former Edwards aide Investigator says money trail points to Edwards aide

Another defense witness Tuesday supported that contention.

John Moylan, a South Carolina political consultant who became close to Edwards while working on his 2004 and 2008 campaigns, said he spent time with Edwards in August 2008 after Edwards had confessed on national television that he had an extramarital affair.

After a few days at the beach, the two men flew to Mellon's 4,000-acre estate, where Mellon mentioned to them that she had been sending checks through her friend to Young.

Young testified earlier that Edwards asked him to pursue the payments as a "long-term solution" to keeping Hunter happy and said that Edwards had assured him and his wife that the payments were legal and weren't campaign contributions.

Moylan said he was surprised to learn of the checks and said of Edwards, "I believe he was as surprised to hear it as I was."

He recalled Edwards telling Mellon, "Bunny, you shouldn't be sending money to anyone."

"I believe to this day that Andrew Young was using Sen. Edwards' name to get money from Mrs. Mellon," he added, prompting an objection from prosecutors because he was stating his opinion.

Moylan said he immediately called Baron to inform him of Mellon's payments. Baron's reaction: "That damn Andrew," Moylan said.

Also Monday, Raleigh lawyer Wade Smith, who once represented Edwards in the case, testified that he never told anyone that Edwards recognized Mellon's payments were to benefit him or his campaign.

Mellon's lawyer, Alex Forger, testified earlier that Smith had told him in late 2008 when he was deciding whether to file a gift tax form for Mellon that Edwards had acknowledged that he had benefited from the money.

"I would never quote my client to someone else," Smith testified, saying that doing so would violate attorney-client privilege.

Smith said he never even discussed Forger's concerns with Edwards and that the question as to whether the checks amounted to a campaign contribution was never raised.

The first defense witness of the day was former Federal Elections Commission Chairman Scott Thomas, who said that an FEC audit of Edwards' 2008 campaign was recently completed and that no mention of Mellon's or Baron's payments was noted in the final report.

Thomas was prepared to testify that he doesn't consider the payments to be campaign contributions, but U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles disallowed the statement Monday, ruling that it might confuse the jury as to the law and that she would tell jurors at the end of the case how current law reads.

71 Comments

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  • southerntalent May 17, 12:27 p.m.

    why do u think edwards fulleled the money thru the youngs accounts,he knew what might happen if the money trail came unraveled,the sad thing is he probably wont't be found guilty at all.

  • jdupree May 16, 2:56 p.m.

    Plausible deniability! That's why Edwards did not have the money come through his hands. Baron was terminally ill and did not care. Young was just greedy and stupid! Guilty, guilty, guilty.

  • Capt Mercury May 16, 11:58 a.m.

    Wake up people. As long as our political process involves millions of dollars contributed to election campaigns so that billions of dollars of tax money are sent back to those contributors, this is the kind of sleazy people you will see running for office (and getting elected in some cases). None of this sort of thing would happen if all campaigning was done on our public communications network (what's left of it). If voters really want to know who they are voting for, they need to take the initiative and seek the information, not have it force fed to them in never-ending TV commercials.

    Hmmm. But that would cut folks like WRAL out of the deal. I wonder if this post will see the light of day.

  • wildpig777 May 16, 10:05 a.m.

    cate to the jury -read my lips --my deddy aint no crook........ hey he could be a movie star he has 1 sex tape to his credit..... plus he's interested in helping america's poor and dishearted.

  • piene2 May 16, 9:40 a.m.

    "Why are the tax payers waisting money on this trial? Just sentence him and let's move on, he is a disgrace to human race....
    movingon"

    And people still wonder why I have no use for he jury trial system?

  • thebian May 16, 9:31 a.m.

    "..and they were being whisked away in the middle of the night to Aspen and Santa Barbara living in luxury..."

    Come on, did you really think that Ms. Hunter was going to settle for digs in Peoria or Amarillo? Hardly! The prima donna at the center of this traveling show was in a position to call the shots and seems to have had no trouble in issuing orders. Andrew Young seems to have been totally starstruck by Edwards & his vision for the country, but it was Cheri Young & her small children that were the real victims.Coerced into living like fugitives,flying under the radar and being uprooted in the middle of the night to go where? Not home, but another strange city.For all
    they put up with and the loss of home life, now they are thrown under the bus.Well, Senator your true colors are showing now and what a smarmy, sleazy mess we see.May you never again be in a position of power and control that will allow you to hurt/betray those who trust you.

  • JAT May 16, 8:08 a.m.

    quikdraw - don't feel bad for Elizabeth. She wasn't stupid. She knew what was going on.

  • JAT May 16, 8:06 a.m.

    Edwards trained his supporters well - unite to throw the blame away from him.

  • superman May 15, 7:58 p.m.

    Young and his wife were working for JE's so they were certainly entitled to compensation for doing JE"s dirty work for several years. You think you could find two people to work for you free? The Youngs deserved every dime they got and more

  • msncdso May 15, 7:48 p.m.

    Wonder if anyone has checked the financial records of Walsh to determine how much it cost Edwards for his testimony? It seems Edwards just can't get enough of using Andrew Young and hanging him out to dry.

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