State News

Friend of John Edwards makes courthouse appearance

Posted January 6, 2011 4:46 p.m. EST
Updated January 6, 2011 6:55 p.m. EST

— A friend and supporter of John Edwards made an appearance Thursday at a federal courthouse where a grand jury is investigating the two-time presidential candidate's finances.

Chapel Hill businessman Michael Cucchiara and an attorney walking with him declined to comment while entering and leaving the courthouse Thursday afternoon. He is among several friends, aides and supporters of Edwards who have come to the federal building in recent months.

Along with being a financial donor to Edwards' political campaigns, Cucchiara and his wife gave a $2 million gift in 2006 to a poverty center that Edwards had developed at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina Center at Chapel Hill. That center provided Edwards a platform to continue his public advocacy between the 2004 campaign, when he was the Democratic vice presidential candidate, and his 2008 White House bid that began at the end of 2006.

Cucchiara said in a statement at the time that he was proud to join Edwards and UNC in supporting a forum for experts to address the issues of poverty, work and opportunity. Edwards, who was director of the program and repeatedly turned to the issue of poverty in his campaign platform, called the gift "extraordinary."

The widow of Edwards's former campaign finance chairman, Dallas attorney Fred Baron, appeared at the courthouse on Wednesday.

Baron said before his 2008 death that he provided money to Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, to move her away from the campaign spotlight while she was pregnant.

Andrew Young, a former campaign aide, said Baron also gave him money to finish his home near Chapel Hill so he could move his family to California with Hunter. Young claimed during the campaign that he had fathered Hunter's child, but Edwards acknowledged a year ago that he was the girl's father.

Edwards has said he is confident no campaign money was improperly spent.