Local Politics

Ex-Edwards aide hires new defense team in sex tape fight

Posted February 16, 2010 4:56 p.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2010 7:19 p.m. EST

— A former aide to two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Tuesday that he has replaced his legal team, adding attorneys with civil court experience.

Andrew Young is involved in a dispute with Edwards' mistress over a videotape purported to show Edwards engaged in extramarital sex.

Rielle Hunter, a campaign staffer who had an affair and a child with Edwards, sued Young and his wife last month, saying they had taken a video she described as "very private and personal," as well as two campaign videos she shot and eight pictures of her daughter.

Hunter alleged that the Youngs wanted the items to generate publicity for his new book, "The Politician," which chronicles Edwards' rise and fall and provides details of his affair with Hunter. She obtained a restraining order that prevents the couple from using the videos or photos.

Young was found in contempt of court for not immediately surrendering the items, but he turned them over to a Superior Court judge in Orange County last week.

He said Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, also has threatened to file an alienation of affection lawsuit against him if he doesn't turn over recordings he and his wife have of voice-mail messages she left on their phone.

"Am I scared of what (the Edwardses) can do to me legally and professionally? Of course," Young said. "They have $50 (million) or $60 million (and) a lot of powerful people who work for them or support them. They are going to try to take me down to my knees."

He said he believes the Edwardses are bankrolling Hunter's legal case, bringing in high-priced attorneys from New Jersey. So he added some firepower on his side by hiring Robert Elliott and David Pishko of Winston-Salem.

"The attorneys that Rielle hired, they’re the best in the business and the most expensive in the business," he said. "We decided we needed to get someone who knew something about civil law."

Young said he feared for his family's safety while writing the book, and he feels more secure now that the book is published. His main concern now is the financial and legal implications of his court fight with Hunter – and the Edwardses.

"People think being No. 2 on The New York Times’ bestsellers list is profitable. That’s true, but not when you’re paying zillions of dollars in legal fees," he said. "(There's) more going out the door than coming in."

Another hearing in the civil suit is set for next week in Hillsborough.

Young said the Edwardses see themselves as invincible.

"They still think they're going to come out of this and be major players on the national scene," he said.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh is investigating whether campaign funds were illegally used to cover up Edwards' affair with Hunter.