John Edwards trial: Mistress Rielle Hunter given $9,000 a month by campaign finance chairman

Dylan Stableford
The Ticket

John Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter was given $9,000 a month in cash for living expenses by his campaign finance chairman in 2008, according to records introduced at the former presidential candidate's corruption trial on Tuesday.

Fred Baron, the former finance chairman of Edwards' 2008 campaign, began making regular deposits into Hunter's checking account in June 2008. Edwards, who by then had already ended his presidential bid but still had hopes of running for vice president, was trying to hide Hunter from public view. Lawyers for Edwards claim the money was a personal donation unrelated to the campaign. Baron died in December 2008.

According to the financial records shown in court Tuesday, Edwards' former aide Andrew Young and Andrew's wife, Cheri, received more than $1 million from Baron and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon between 2007 and 2008, and gave Hunter $191,000 during that period "for private jets, stays at luxury resorts and a $20,000-a-month California rental mansion."

On Tuesday, defense witness Wade Smith, a North Carolina trial lawyer who once represented Edwards, "waffled" on the stand, according to ABC News, changing his testimony about whether Edwards had told him that money obtained from Mellon was for his "benefit."

"I would never quote my client," Smith initially said on Tuesday, contradicting earlier testimony from Fred Forger, Mellon's lawyer.

But when the prosecution introduced a December 2008 email between Forger, Smith and another Edwards lawyer, Jim Cooney, indicating they had talked with Edwards about the money, Smith altered his story.

"I certainly would not have wanted to do that," Smith told the court.

When asked a third time if he ever told Forger the "Bunny money" was for Edwards' benefit, Smith again changed his answer, saying: "I have no recollection of saying that. I do not."

Also on Tuesday, Judge Catherine Eagles allowed former Federal Election Commission chairman Scott Thomas--who was supposed to be the defense's first witness--to give limited testimony, despite objections from the prosecution. Thomas told jurors campaign finance law is complicated. "It seems like it's relatively simple at first blush," he said, according to Politico, "but it's far from that in my point of view."

Defense attorneys for Edwards began presenting their case on Monday. It's not clear whether Hunter or Edwards himself will be called to testify.

Cate Edwards, John Edwards' older daughter, is expected to take the stand later this week.

Edwards faces six criminal counts—including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Hunter. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

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