WRAL Investigates

Sources: Edwards indictment could come soon

Posted February 15, 2011 5:59 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2011 6:52 p.m. EST

— Signs point to an indictment of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, and it could happen in the next month or so, sources tell WRAL News.

The U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., and a federal grand jury in Raleigh are still reviewing the case, which appears to have zeroed in on money from a 100-year-old campaign supporter and attempts to hide Edwards' affair with a campaign staffer.

Former Edwards aide Andrew Young wrote in his tell-all book, "The Politician," that heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon gave Edwards a total of $700,000 as a gift. The so-called "Bunny money" helped fund the cover-up of Edwards' affair with video producer Rielle Hunter, who was pregnant with the former U.S. senator's child.

Political observers said the money was a campaign contribution and should have been noted in Edwards' campaign finance reports.

"The way federal election law is written is anything to support the activity of a campaign (is a campaign contribution)," Peace College political science professor David McLennan said. "They look at the intent of the money."

Edwards released a statement through his attorney in 2009 that he was confident no funds from his campaign were used improperly.

Young told WRAL News in an interview a year ago that Mellon was in the dark about how her money was being used.

He said Edwards' campaign finance chairman, wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron, financed flights and paid rent on a California home for Hunter and Young's family during the period when Young pretended to be the father of Hunter's baby.

"I heard one of the jets used for Rielle to fly around the country was $55,000 to $60,000," Young said. "We were living in a house that I co-signed with Fred that was $20,000 a month."

Young also told WRAL News that Baron paid him $325,000 to finish his own home back in Chapel Hill so it could be sold.

Baron died from cancer in 2008, but his widow appeared before the federal grand jury in Raleigh last month. Investigators have interviewed Mellon twice at her estate in Virginia, and some of her family members testified before the grand jury in December.

Edwards flew to Mellon's estate on her private jet in December 2009 while the case was under investigation, but he has never said what was discussed.

McLennan said federal campaign law needs to address the issues dredged up by the 2-year-old investigation.

"When it comes to hiding things from the public, we need that kind of discussion," he said.