Published May 07, 2012
John Edwards asked philanthropist Rachel "Bunny" Mellon for an additional $3 million several years after the botched cover-up of his extramarital affair, according to testimony in his criminal trial today.
However, jurors won't hear this testimony -- after a successful objection by the defense, which argued the pricey 2011 request had no bearing on funds obtained from Mellon during the 2008 election cycle.
Those funds, along with money from another donor, are at the heart of the federal campaign finance case against Edwards. Prosecutors are trying to prove those donations constituted illegal campaign contributions.
Without the jury present, the librarian at Mellon's farm, Oak Spring Garden, on Monday described a 2011 phone call in which Edwards allegedly made the request of his long-time supporter.
"The senator had talked to her about some additional money to help get him established and moving on," said Tony Willis. "She said that she couldn't. And then when she came to the library, she said, 'I really need to write a letter.'"
Willis helped Mellon draft a letter to Edwards. But it was never sent, on advice from her lawyers. The prosecution attempted to enter the unsent letter into evidence because it apparently described giving Edwards money for political purposes. However, the defense objected.
"This alleged conspiracy was in 2011," said defense lawyer Allen Duncan. "It has no relevance to issues before this jury."
After 15 minutes of back-and-forth between the defense and prosecution, the judge sustained Duncan's objection. The jury, in turn, will not hear about Edwards' 2011 request for funds.
Earlier Monday, the defense wrapped up cross-examination of Mellon's estate lawyer, Alex Forger.
"She in her later years had very few close friends," said Forger, explaining Mellon's relationship with Edwards. "She took a liking to Mr. Edwards. She liked him as an individual, as a person."
When asked why Mellon gave money to Edwards' causes, Forger replied, "She wasn't interested in being named secretary of state or ambassador. It was the person that interested her."