John Edwards, Mistress and Daughter May Testify in Trial


John Edwards Witness Waffled on Stand

Edwards lawyers have signaled they could be done presenting their case as early as Wednesday and likely no later than Friday.

Earlier today, a key witness in Edwards' defense waffled on the stand, changing his testimony about whether Edwards had told him that money obtained from wealthy backer Rachel "Bunny" Mellon was for his "benefit" and was used to provide for his mistress and love child.

Wade Smith, a North Carolina trial lawyer who has represented Edwards, initially denied telling Mellon's attorney that Edwards acknowledged the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in what became known as "Bunny money."

Alex Forger, Mellon's lawyer, testified last week that he called Smith in an attempt to find out why the elderly philanthropist was writing so many checks. Forger asked Smith if the money was a gift for Edwards and whether Mellon should declare it as such on her taxes.

Smith got back to Forger telling him, "John Edwards has said he acknowledges now that this was for his benefit," Forger testified last week.

This morning, however, Smith denied making that statement. "I would never quote my client," he told the court.

But when the prosecution introduced a December 2008 email between Forger, Smith and another Edwards lawyer, Jim Cooney, indicating they had talked with Edwards about the money, Smith altered his story.

"I certainly would not have wanted to do that," Smith told the court.

When asked a third time if he ever told Forger the "Bunny money" was for Edwards' benefit, Smith again changed his answer, saying: "I have no recollection of saying that. I do not."

Smith's testimony appears to complicate Edwards' claim that he was unaware that former aide Andrew Young collected $725,000 from Mellon on Edwards' behalf.

Young and his wife Cheri spent more than a year hiding Hunter from the public and the press, with Young even claiming paternity of Edwards' baby.

To bolster Edwards' claim, his lawyers called John Moylan, a friend of Edwards who accompanied him to Mellon's home where Moylan claims that Edwards learned for the first time that Young was soliciting the wealthy heiress for money.

"He was as surprised to hear it as I was," Moylan said of Edwards' reaction. "Sen. Edwards said 'Bunny, you should not be sending money to anyone.'"

"John and I discussed it. It was a significant issue. There was a concern that… Andrew Young was using Sen. Edwards' name to get money from Ms. Mellon," Moylan testifed.

Prosecutors tried to slap down that story by introducing the transcript of a phone call Edwards made to Young, using Moylan's cell phone, just a day before the pair visited Mellon at her sprawling Virginia estate.

"Everything is a go," Edwards told Young. "I'm going to make sure you're protected and included. This is John Moylan's phone I'm using. Keep your head up."

To further the claim that Young was pocketing money from Mellon, his defense team introduced Young's bank statements showing $725,000 he received from Mellon.

The daughter was expected to be called as a witness and normally witnesses are not allowed to attend court proceedings before they testify. But Cate Edwards was given a waiver by Judge Catherine Eagles to sit through testimony because she is her father's closest family member. She has entered the court and left with her father almost daily and takes her place directly behind her dad when court is in session.

She has smiled and even chuckled when something in the courtroom went their way, but much of the testimony has been difficult to listen to and at one point she has made sure she was not present.

The most heart rending moment of the trial came when a former Edwards' aide was about to testify about a confrontation between a distraught Elizabeth Edwards and her wayward husband. Before it began, Cate Edwards left her seat wiping her eyes as her father called after her, "Cate, Cate."

The witness went on to describe Elizabeth Edwards collapsing on an airport tarmac and then tearing off her blouse and bra while yelling at her husband, "You don't see me any more."

"There are these moments of just deep anguishing pain that have been relived in that courtroom and you know we saw the day of that airport scene being replayed, that it was too much for Cate and she left in tears to escape the details of how badly her mother ached," Westfall said.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 16346087.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...