Published April 25, 2012
The John Edwards trial is quickly taking on the feel of a soap opera, as the prosecution's star witness returns to the stand Wednesday and continues to narrate the almost unbelievable drama that played out while Edwards tried to hide his affair.
Former aide Andrew Young, on the stand Tuesday, painted an unflattering portrait of both Edwards and mistress Rielle Hunter -- whom he described as demanding even as she was being amply provided for.
He 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 Baron. He said Hunter was often unsatisfied and demanded upgrades. At one Fort Lauderdale hotel, she criticized her room because it lacked "good energy," Young said.
Mike Rich, a law professor at Elon University, said the latest testimony doesn't "impact any of the elements that the government has to prove."
The government is trying to prove Edwards knew that the nearly $1 million in donations was being used to hide the affair -- and that it was being hid in order to protect his 2008 presidential bid, making those donations tantamount to an illegal campaign contribution.
Still, Rich suggested the character attacks could have an impact.
"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," he said.
According to Young, when Edwards first learned his mistress was pregnant during his bid for the White House, "he said that she was a crazy slut and it was a 1-in-3 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."
Prosecutors claim the 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, N.C.
Edwards' lawyers on Wednesday 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, the attorneys 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.