Attorneys for former John Edwards aide Andrew Young today convinced a North Carolina judge to compel Edwards to provide additional deposition testimony in a long-running dispute over an explicit videotape featuring the ex-candidate and his mistress, Rielle Hunter.
Superior Court Judge Carl Fox scheduled the follow-up session for June 20 -- in response to Young's contention that Edwards had avoided pertinent questions during a videotaped deposition in February. In newly unsealed court documents, attorneys for Young claim that Edwards "failed and refused to respond adequately" in his first deposition, and that the former presidential candidate's lawyers "repeatedly objected on the ground of relevance and repeatedly instructed Edwards not to answer counsel's questions."
The response from Edwards' attorneys, also made public today, reveals that the former senator's attorneys had tried to block further questioning, which they maintain is in "bad faith," and seeks to "unreasonably annoy, embarrass, or oppress [Edwards]."
Under an agreement worked out today behind closed doors, the June deposition will take place privately, and will be subject to the direct supervision of Judge Fox. Fox has previously ruled that he would not limit the questioning of Edwards to details of the sex tape and would allow the Young's lawyers' to pursue other matters, such as details of Hunter's employment as a videographer for Edwards' political action committee and the financial arrangements allegedly made to conceal the affair during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Those payments are also the subject of a federal criminal investigation that may soon result in an indictment of Edwards, according to multiple sources familiar with the probe.
Also at the hearing in Raleigh today, a coalition of more than a dozen media companies -- including the major broadcast networks, The New York Times and others -- argued for the unsealing of Edwards' deposition and others taken thus far in the case.
Attorneys for Hunter and Edwards had previously won broad protective orders from the court preventing any public disclosure of the deposition testimony or other evidence learned in the discovery process. They contended that Andrew Young had substantial commercial interest in using information from the court case to promote his book and the upcoming movie version of his story. Young has turned the sex tape over to the court and has said he kept it only as supporting evidence for the claims he made in the book.
In court papers filed last month, the media companies asserted that "[t]he public interest in Senator Edwards' deposition and the other depositions in this case is significant, while the privacy interests of Senator Edwards and the parties -- who voluntarily participated in events of significant public importance and have widely and openly discussed all of the events underlying this litigation -- are negligible." The media companies are not seeking access to the sex tape or private photographs that Hunter contends were taken from her by the Youngs.
"This isn't just an ordinary privacy case. This is about the demise of a presidential campaign," media attorney Nathan Siegel said in court today. "Those are events that the public has every right and interest in being able to follow closely."
Allison Van Lanningham, an attorney for Hunter, countered that public disclosure of the depositions could do further damage to Hunter's privacy interests.
"This is not a campaign finance case. This is not a case against Senator Edwards," Van Lanningham said. "This is a privacy case brought by Rielle Hunter to get her stuff back that was wrongly taken from her and to enforce her privacy rights."
But Young's lawyers noted that since filing the suit, Hunter has done a lengthy TV interview about the affair on the Oprah Winfrey Show and also sat for a GQ magazine profile that included provocative photographs of her while holding her daughter, Quinn.
"She talked about her relationship with a married man," said defense attorney Robert Elliot. "If there was any concern for privacy, I didn't see it.
WTVD reporter Tamara Gibbs contributed to this report.