GREENSBORO, N.C. — Unfurling in almost cinematic form, an elaborate scheme to hide former Sen. John Edwards' affair and the child it produced was methodically set out by federal prosecutors here Tuesday.
The government kept Andrew Young, its star witness and once Edwards' closest aide, on the stand all day. Using cellphone records, emails and Edwards' own voice mails, prosecutors tried to show that Edwards, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was the mastermind behind the crimes he stands accused of and that Young was not lying.
Edwards, 58, has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign finance violations involving nearly $1 million in secret payments provided by two wealthy donors as he sought the presidency in 2008. If he is convicted on all counts, he faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Though much of Young's side has been told, in his own book and media reports, the details of Edwards' affair with the onetime campaign videographer Rielle Hunter were riveting, spun out for hours in a courtroom while Edwards' elder daughter, Cate, and his parents sat behind him.
Young, who has immunity from prosecution, testified that he received a call from Edwards when the former senator found out Hunter was pregnant in the summer of 2007.
"He said she was a crazy slut and there was a 1-in-3 chance that it was his," Young said.
He said he and Edwards had worked together to hide the affair beginning in the fall of 2006, when Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, found out and demanded Hunter be fired. Elizabeth Edwards died in 2010 of breast cancer.
The plan, Young said, was to provide Hunter with an income and help her travel to see Edwards while he was on the road. Rachel Mellon, a banking heiress, financed the deception. Young's wife, Cheri, would deposit the checks in the family account and give Hunter a monthly allowance of $5,000 to $12,000.
The Youngs became nervous about the arrangement, Young testified, especially when they got a check for $100,000.
Edwards told Young that "he had talked to several campaign finance experts and that it was legal," Young testified. "It felt and smelled wrong. But he knew more about the law than we did."
Young said he went along with the plan because he was taken with the rewards that would come from having a friend who was "the most powerful person on earth."