A trial lawyer turned senator, John Edwards was the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee and ran for president again in 2008. In 2006, he met Rielle Hunter, a woman who would become his mistress, change the course of his life and land him on trial. Edwards was charged with six counts of violating federal election laws and accused of soliciting donations from wealthy political backers to finance a cover up the affair. His lawyers say Edwards was a bad husband, but not a criminal who only tried to keep his wife from learning about the affair.
The first thing Rielle Hunter ever said to Edwards was: "You're so hot." The jury, however, never heard anything from Hunter, the mistress at the center of the trial. Instead jurors learned about Hunter, the baby she had with Edwards, and the sometimes madcap attempt to cover it up. Hunter was described as an eccentric. She called her spiritual adviser when a sandwich she order came with the wrong dressing, demanded better hotel rooms when she didn't like their "energy" and used the alias Rielle Jaya James Druck when she delivered Edwards' love child.
John Edwards' wife Elizabeth became "volcanic" when learning of her husband's affair, witnesses testified. Elizabeth, who battled a recurrence of breast cancer during the campaign, learned of the affair when it was reported in the National Enquirer. A distraught Elizabeth confronted Edwards about Hunter on an airport tarmac, breaking down and tearing off her blouse and bra. Friends testified that Elizabeth believed Edwards' lie that Andrew Young was the father of Hunter's baby and felt abandoned by her husband while on her death bed.
Andrew Young was once so loyal an aide to John Edwards other staffers nicknamed him "Rose Petal," as if he'd strew flowers in front of the candidate's feet. For the prosecution, Young was their key witness, the man who collected the checks that would be used to hide Hunter and her baby. For the defense, Young is their prime suspect, the man who used his boss's name to cadge money from wealthy donors. Young falsely claimed paternity for Hunter's child and considered selling a video tape of Edwards and Hunter having sex. Young was offered immunity from prosecution, but kept much of the money he obtained from donors, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his North Carolina home. Young spent nearly 30 hours testifying.
Cheri Young, Andrew's wife, bore much of the brunt of dealing with Rielle Hunter, travelling with her children and Hunter across the country in order to avoid the media. Cheri testified that she was reluctant to get involved with Hunter or cash checks she knew came from Edwards' backers. The told the court that Edwards personally assured her it was legal and then curtly ordered her to "Get the money in."
John Edwards adult daughter Cate sat through nearly every day of his trial, leaving with tears in her eyes when testimony turned to the painful day her mother Elizabeth learned about Edwards' affair. Edwards at one point during testimony about his wife's reaction warned Cate that testimony would be difficult to listen to.
Cate, 30 and recently married, moved back to North Carolina during the trial to help look after her two young siblings Emma Claire and Jack. She was at one point expected to testify on her father's behalf but was never put on the stand.
|RACHEL "BUNNY" MELLON|
A wealthy Virginia heiress, Mellon funneled $725,000 to help Edwards cover up his affair. As Edwards flew off from her estate in her private plane, she told her pal Bryan Huffman, "There goes the next president of the United States." An enthusiastic Mellon wrote checks for phony furniture purchases to Huffman who signed them over to Edwards' aide Andrew Young. Mellon, who is 101 and hard of hearing, did not testify. Huffman said that when Mellon found out her money was used to keep Edwards' mistress, she "thought maybe you should probably pay for your girlfriend yourself."
Bryan Huffman, 48, a close friend of Mellon, entered the courtroom on his first day of testimony wearing a bright yellow sport coat. Speaking in a thick southern drawl reminiscent of an antebellum plantation owner, the flamboyant interior designer explained the arrangement by which he helped funnel money from Mellon to Andrew Young. When Edwards' campaign was over, Edwards allegedly had Young hit up Mellon for $50 million to endow a foundation for Edwards, suggesting she could mortgage her home. Mellon was "apoplectic," Huffman said. "I cannot believe that the senator wanted me for my money all along," he recalled her saying.
Lawyer Fred Baron had long supported John Edwards' political ambitions, but found himself supporting his mistress Rielle Hunter as well. Baron spent more than $300,000,putting Hunter up in fancy hotels and million-dollar mansions and splurging on shopping sprees. Baron died before the trial, so it was left to witnesses to convince the jury whether or not Baron was giving Hunter money with Edwards' knowledge. One witness, Edwards' body man John Davis, testified that he overheard Baron telling Edwards that "the press isn't going to find Miss Hunter because of the way I am moving her around."
Though not directly involved in the case, President Obama, or at least candidate Obama, plays an important role in understanding Edwards' ambitions. After Edwards' first loss in 2008 primary season, he had his surrogates reach out to the Obama campaign to cut a deal allowing Edwards to be vice president in exchange for dropping out and helping defeat Hillary Clinton. Even after Edwards had admitted to the affair with Hunter, he still believed Obama would offer him the VP spot on the ticket, or at least make him attorney general. It was those efforts, a kind of shadow campaign, that the government argues were part of the political motivations to continue the cover up.
|ABC's BOB WOODRUFF|
Without ever taking the stand, ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff was an important witness for the prosecution. In August 2008, Edwards gave Woodruff his only interview. In the prosecution's finale, they played the entire Nightline interview. In the interview Edwards admits the affair but denies he was Frances Quinn's father. He also denied knowing anything about his donors giving money to help support Hunter.