Edwards lawyers seek to limit testimony of aide

AP News
Posted: Feb 16, 2012 4:46 PM
Edwards lawyers seek to limit testimony of aide

Lawyers for John Edwards have asked a judge to limit the testimony of longtime aide Andrew Young at the former presidential candidate's upcoming campaign finance trial.

Edwards' lawyers and prosecutors submitted court filings Wednesday over expected testimony from Young about conversations he had with heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and campaign finance chairman Fred Baron. The conversations regarded money used to help hide Edwards' pregnant mistress as he sought election to the White House.

Defense lawyers said Young's testimony would amount to hearsay, or out-of-court statements that can't be verified, since Baron is dead and the 101-year-old Mellon is too frail to testify at trial.

Prosecutors contend that Young's testimony is permissible under an exemption that allows a member of a conspiracy to testify about statements made by co-conspirators.

Edwards' lawyers argue that no such conspiracy existed.

"There also is no question that Mr. Edwards and Young agreed to hide the truth about Ms. Hunter's baby, and that Mr. Edwards knew and agreed that Young should claim that he (and not Mr. Edwards) was the father," Edwards' lawyers wrote. "There is no evidence, however, that Young believed that he had an agreement with Mr. Edwards to commit a crime."

To bolster their position, Edwards' lawyers quote from Young's 2010 tell-all bestseller, The Politician. In the book, Young described the nearly $1 million paid by Baron and Mellon as "gifts, entirely proper, and not subject to campaign finance laws."

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six felony and misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance violations. He denies knowing about the money flowing from his wealthy donors to Young, then one of his closest aides. Young falsely claimed paternity of Edwards' child and, with his wife, traveled across the country with the mistress, Rielle Hunter, in an attempt to avoid the media.

Prosecutors also disclosed Wednesday that they intend to call two other former Edwards' staffers as witnesses.

Former Edwards press secretary Jennifer Palmieri is expected to testify she was present in an Iowa hotel room in October 2007 when wife Elizabeth Edwards confronted the candidate, Baron and Baron's wife, Lisa Blue, about the couple's support of Hunter.

According to Palmieri's account, Baron and Blue tried to calm Edwards' angry wife by saying that the mistress was a "loose cannon" who had to be kept happy, lest she go to the press.

Eileen Mancera, a financial advisor to the Edwards campaign, is expected to testify that Baron called her in early January 2008 to chastise her for offering her services to the Obama campaign. Baron urged Mancera to stick with Edwards in the hope he would be named the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, according to the government.

Edwards dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 30, 2008. He later admitted to fathering Hunter's child, effectively ending his political hopes.

Edwards' criminal trial was to begin at the end of January but was delayed after his lawyers told the judge he has a serious heart condition that requires treatment. A new start date for the trial has not yet been set.


Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck