GREENSBORO, N.C. — John Edwards drove erratically in a borrowed black SUV down rural North Carolina roads, as his once-trusted aide tried to keep up. The former presidential contender pulled into a secluded dead-end road and beckoned for the aide, Andrew Young, to get in.
Edwards confessed that life inside the nearby gated estate he shared with a cancer-stricken wife angered by his affair had become “a living hell.” Young said Edwards then shocked him by denying any knowledge of $725,000 in secret checks from an elderly heiress used to buy his mistress’ silence.
Worried he was being taped, Young lied and said no.
The August 2008 exchange, also recounted in Young’s tell-all book about the Edwards scandal, reads as if pulled from a political thriller. It was Young’s third straight day of testimony as the government sought to prove Edwards masterminded a scheme to use nearly $1 million from wealthy campaign donors to conceal his affair with Rielle Hunter from voters as he sought the White House. Edwards‘ attorney sought to point out inconsistencies in Young’s testimony and other accounts of his story during cross-examination Wednesday.
During the 2008 meeting in his car, Young told Edwards he had kept evidence of the cover-up, including voicemails, emails and an intimate tape made by the woman. He said he threatened to go public if Edwards‘ didn’t come clean about the fact the baby was his.
The former one-term U.S. senator from North Carolina has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign finance violations. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted on all counts.
Edwards denies knowing about the secret money, much of which flowed into accounts controlled by Young and his wife, Cheri. Edwards‘ lawyers claim the Youngs siphoned off the bulk of the money to pay for their $1.5 million house near Chapel Hill.
Yet months passed with no call from Edwards, and Young said he and his wife had grown tired of sharing a house with the increasingly-demanding Hunter. Through an intermediary, Young demanded a face-to-face meeting with the senator, who was then in talks with Barack Obama’s campaign about becoming the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
Edwards asked Young to keep the secret for longer at a June 18, 2008, meeting in a hotel room near Washington, Young testified. The men shouted and nearly came to blows before Edwards was able to calm Young down, the ex-aide testified.