GREENSBORO, N.C. – John Edwards’ defense lawyer on Thursday picked apart ex-aide Andrew Young’s story that he was asked to conceal Edwards’ affair with a mistress with campaign money, accusing him of making up stories about the former presidential contender to make money off of the scandal.
Andrew Young took witness stand for a fourth straight day at Edwards’ campaign finance fraud trial. The star prosecution witness is key to the government’s case that while campaigning for the White House in 2008, Edwards directed a scheme to use nearly $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy donors to conceal an affair with his pregnant mistress.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts and faces up to 30 years behind bars if convicted. The defense argued in opening statements that Young spent most of the money at issue in the case to build a $1.5 million house for his family, not to buy the silence of Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter.
The defense sought to undermine Young’s credibility and paint him as a pathological liar.
Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell pointed out inconsistencies with Young’s account of the scandal at trial this week and in multiple other accounts, including grand jury testimony and his 2010 tell-all book about Edwards.
Lowell asked Young whether he first learned Hunter, was pregnant in May 2007, as his book says: in June 2007, as he testified; or in early July, a date backed by phone records and Hunter’s medical records.
The timeline issues could challenge the accounts of conversations Young said he had with Edwards in a car discussing who to ask for money to help take care of Hunter and discussing Hunter’s pregnancy.
Young said he couldn’t recall the exact date for either event.
Lowell also challenged Young on which amount of secret money a wealthy heiress said she would provide to help make Edwards president – $1.2 million, as he testified this week, or $900,000 and $925,000, figures he had previously given.
Young said the number he provided this week is the correct one.
Young had falsely claimed paternity of Edwards’ daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, while Edwards was campaigning for president. Edwards acknowledged he had fathered the child two years later.
As Lowell’s detailed questioning continued, some jurors appeared distracted and even U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles grew impatient.
“I’m not quite following,” the judge told Lowell after he asked Young a question about whose idea it was for Young to claim paternity of Hunter’s child. “We’re about to beat a dead horse here.”
She warned the attorney she might cut off his questions if they weren’t relevant to the criminal charges facing Edwards.
“You’re going to get to the money, right?” she asked Lowell.
Young was expected to remain on the stand all day Thursday. His wife, Cheri Young, could take the stand Friday.
Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck