GREENSBORO, N.C. — The lawyer for a wealthy heiress who provided secret payments intended to help John Edwards testified Friday that the former presidential candidate acknowledged the money had been given for his benefit.
Alex Forger said that Edwards' then-lawyer Wade Smith told him in the fall of 2008 that the former candidate agreed that the $725,000 given by 101-year-old Rachel "Bunny" Mellon had been provided to help him. It wasn't clear from Forger's testimony at Edwards' criminal trial precisely when Edwards learned about the checks given to his aide, Andrew Young.
Some of Mellon's money was used to hide Edwards' pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008. Whether the former Democratic senator from North Carolina had knowledge of the coverup is a key question in his prosecution on charges related to campaign finance corruption.
Edwards has denied knowing about the secret payments from Mellon. Young testified last week his former boss directed the scheme from the start.
Forger, a lawyer, has helped manage Mellon's financial affairs for decades. He recounted the 2008 conversation with Smith.
He testified that he had been concerned for months about $725,000 in checks from Mellon that had been written to a Charlotte interior designer and labeled as being for chairs, tables and bookcases. Forger had learned those checks were endorsed by the designer and then deposited into an account controlled by Andrew Young.
Forger also knew Young was a fundraiser for Edwards, and was concerned about whether his client had violated any laws.
During a phone call, he said he asked Smith whether Edwards agreed the money was intended for his benefit. Smith replied that he would find out. A short time later, Smith called back.
" 'Yes, John acknowledges now that these were for his benefit,' " Forger quoted Smith as saying.