GREENSBORO, N.C. – Defense lawyers attacked the credibility again Friday of the prosecution's key witness in the federal criminal trial of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.
Former campaign staffer Andrew Young is faces a third day of cross-examination.
Lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell asked Young, "Did the government tell you not to contact any witnesses?"
Young replied, "Yes."
"Did you contact any of these people?" Lowell asked.
"Yes, maybe some of them," Young responded.
Young admitted he asked three witnesses how they planned to testify in the criminal trial of his former boss, but said he could not recall what he said in response.
The prosecution's key witness has claimed Edwards orchestrated a scheme to funnel nearly $1 million in contributions from two wealthy donors to hide the former candidate's pregnant mistress during his 2008 bid for the White House. However, the defense produced financial records suggesting Young had used most of the money to finance construction of his $1.5 million home in Chapel Hill, N.C. and personal travel with his family, including a Disney Cruise, a trip to Cabo, Mexico and sending his wife and children to Legoland, in California.
The defense also asked Young about a confrontational meeting in August of 2008, in which he reportedly threatened to go public with information about the affair.
"Did you panic then?" Lowell asked.
"I panicked long before that," Young responded.
Lowell followed up, "We're you afraid of Mr. Edwards?"
"Yes, I was up against two billionaires, a millionaire and a presidential candidate."
Throughout the cross-examination, Lowell has grilled Young over reimbursements he procured from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Texas lawyer Fred Baron to cover travel and lodging expenses for Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter. Young admitted he had not informed Baron about funds he had already received from Mellon.
"Any juror will be able to understand you can not submit reimbursement for expenses that you never paid," said Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor who has been observing the trial.
According to Shanahan, the defense team further damaged Young's credibility by pointing out inconsistencies in his recollection of the dates and order of key events, such as when he first learned Hunter was pregnant.
"His biggest liability is that he talked too much," Shanahan said. "Andrew Young obviously wrote a book. He appeared on multiple national TV shows. He gave multiple interviews to the agents and to the government. And the stories just don't add up."
Yesterday, the court released more trial exhibits to the general public, including checks that Mellon funneled to Young and his wife Cheri, using her interior decorator, Bryan Huffman, as an intermediary. The checks often came with encouraging notes.
In one note Huffman writes, "Andrew, as Bunny says, 'For the rescue of America!'"
Prosecutors are trying to show the intent behind the donations was not just friendship, but political influence -- therefore violating the $2,300 individual donor cap under federal campaign finance laws. If convicted, Edwards could face up to 30 years in prison.
But the former presidential contender denies he knew about the money. His lawyers argue the donations were "private gifts" from friends to prevent Edwards' wife from finding out about his pregnant mistress. And just how much of those funds even went to that end is in question as the cross-examination of Young continues.