John Edwards Trial Testimony: Like a Soap Opera Script
John Edwards's former campaign staffer Andrew Young is expected to take the witness stand again today, following two days of testimony that often sounded like a script from a soap opera.
According to Young, when Edwards first learned his mistress Rielle Hunter was pregnant during his bid for the White House, "he said that she was a crazy slut and it was a one in three chance that it was his child."
Young said Edwards later asked him to claim paternity of Hunter's daughter to shield his affair from the media spotlight. Young said he reluctantly agreed.
"I wanted my friend to be president," he explained. "Being friends with the most powerful person on earth, there are benefits to that."
Young also described the "bat phone," an extra cell phone he provided Edwards to continue secret communications with his mistress after his wife Elizabeth became suspicious of the relationship and demanded he fire Hunter from the campaign.
"This doesn't impact any of the elements that the government has to prove," said Mike Rich, a law professor at Elon University. "That being said, the government has to convince the jury to be mad enough at John Edwards to want to convict him and name him as a criminal. And to do that they need salacious details like this."
In order to prove Edwards violated federal campaign finance laws, prosecutors must convince jurors that Edwards was aware of the nearly $1 million dollars obtained from two wealthy donors to keep his pregnant mistress in hiding, and that the contributions were intended to help his candidacy, not just to cover up the affair.
Young described an elaborate scheme where heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon would funnel money to her interior decorator, who would then issue checks to Young and his wife. The Youngs provided Hunter with luxury accommodations, travel and even a BMW, according to the testimony.
Young also described lavish accommodations provided by a second wealthy donor, Fred Barron. He said Hunter was often unsatisfied and demanded upgrades. At one Ft. Lauderdale hotel, she criticized her room because it lacked "good energy," Young said.
Prosecutors claim these donations were "campaign contributions" in excess of the individual donor limit of $2,300 per election cycle. The defense team argues the funds were private gifts, and that Young used much of the money to build his own house in Chapel Hill, NC.
Later today, Edwards's lawyers may get their first opportunity to cross-examine Young.
"They need to attack Andrew Young's credibility as much as possible," Rich said.
According to the law professor, prosecutors will try to point out inconsistencies between Young's testimony in court and statements he's made before the trial and in his 2010 tell-all book, "The Politician."
"Anything they can do to say not only that he's an untrustworthy guy, but point to things where he might have been lying right here in court," Rich said.