John Edwards, known to his friends as “Johnny”, born in 1953, and at that time named Johnny Reid, went on to be a senator from North Carolina. He was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004, and ran for the presidency in 2008.
John Edwards, handsome, polished, and well-schooled in political correctness is on trial in a Greensboro, North Carolina, federal court for charges that he misspent nearly a million dollars in campaign contributions that he used to prevent the public from learning about his mistress, and the details of her pregnancy. Edwards is married. He and wife Elizabeth married in 1977, and that marriage produced four children. Edwards’s eldest son, Wade, was killed in a tragic auto crash in 1996, as strong winds sent his Jeep off a North Carolina highway. A few short weeks later, Wade Edwards was honored by First Lady Hillary Clinton as a finalist in an essay contest in which the young man’s essay reminisced about entering a voting booth with his celebrated father.
The just beginning court case revolves around Edwards’s mistress, one time campaign videographer, Rielle Hunter. When Hunter became pregnant and gave birth in 2008 to a girl named Frances Quinn Hunter, Edwards denied his fathering of the child for two years; he admitted to it in 2010. The money that John Edwards used in the unsuccessful cover up of Rielle’s pregnancy came from Edwards’ national campaign finance chairman, Texas lawyer Fred Baron, and campaign donor, heiress and socialite Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. If convicted of violating federal election finance laws Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. According to one witness, Fred Baron, now deceased, sought to calm Elizabeth Edwards by calling Rielle a “loose cannon” who had to be kept happy lest she go to the press.
Key to the case is former campaign aide Andrew Young. Young ran the Edwards household, kept the family cars in top shape, and often worked dawn to dusk for the Edwards family. It was Young who handled the money, most of which was intended for the care and expenses of mistress Rielle Hunter. Andrew Young falsely claimed to be the father of Edwards’ baby. The government must prove that John Edwards knew about the use of funds for the care of Rielle Hunter. The contributions were illegal from the onset, as both contributors had already contributed the maximum amount allowed under federal law. Young and his family, including his three children, spent the money on trips to Aspen, expensive hotels in the West, and a home in Santa Barbara, California, as they awaited the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.
First to testify early last week was Andrew Young, the keeper of the household. In a 2008 interview with Gentleman’s Quarterly, Young said, “I love Johnny [Edwards] and I love my daughter more than anything in the world.” At that time Young was still claiming paternity of the child. In court, Andrew Young testified that John Edwards referred to Ms. Hunter as a “crazy slut” when he learned she was pregnant. He recalled that during a crucial conversation, he told Edwards, “If he wasn’t going to tell the truth about what transpired, then I was going to tell the truth.” He said he was severely strained by his ongoing effort to keep the secret of the Hunter pregnancy. Attempting to convince Edwards to come forward with the truth, he told Edwards he had saved voicemails, text messages, emails, photographs and a sex video of Edwards and Hunter.
Young admitted he was frightened and concerned for his life. He described his last conversation with John Edwards, August 18, 2008, riding in a car near a wooded area. “Did you think John Edwards was going to shoot you?” a government prosecutor asked. “[Is it true that] you thought there was a gunman in the woods who was going to come and shoot you?” Young conceded that “That thought did cross my mind.” Young also testified that he had been intimidated by Baron and Mellon, the major contributors to the Edwards campaign.
Cheri Young, wife of Andrew Young testified on Friday that “Andrew was mesmerized by John Edwards.” Asked about the false claims that her husband Andrew was the child’s father, she said, “I was not happy with it. It was maddening to me. Andrew had no responsibilities at home.” Mrs. Young is a pediatric nurse, 38 years of age. She further testified that the “Tensions of life in Washington” sent her back to North Carolina.
The trial is still in its early stages. Rielle Hunter is on the witness list, as is Edwards’ oldest daughter, Cate Edwards.