ABC11 Investigates

Edwards allegedly asked donor for money

Friday, June 17, 2011

The ABC 11 I-Team has been told that former North Carolina Senator John Edwards asked a key donor for money just as the feds were preparing to indict him.

In April, the I-Team was in the air and on the ground after being tipped off that Bunny Mellon sent her private jet to the Burlington Airport to fly Edwards and his lawyers to her estate in Virginia. ABC11 was told that was about the time Edwards was asking Mellon for millions of dollars. For some reason, Edwards and his lawyers never showed up for that flight.

The I-Team was tipped off about another lunch date at Mellon's Virginia estate in late May.

Sources at the estate told the I-Team Edwards spent the afternoon with Mellon the week before he was indicted, and she served fish for lunch.

The I-Team asked a lawyer working for Mellon about the request for money and why Edwards wanted the millions.

William Taylor said, "Thank you but we will not be responding to your questions."

He described the lunch to ABC News as "personal and social" and in other comments said, "[t]here was no discussion of anything related to [Edwards's] situation."

A spokesperson for Edward's legal team also refused to comment.

Other sources close to the Edwards investigation say Edwards has expressed concern about mounting a defense against the federal charges, worried it could cost millions of dollars.

In a voicemail message from August 2008, Edwards told campaign aide Andrew Young about his relationship with Mellon as Edwards worked to convince Mellon to donate millions to start a foundation to fight poverty.

"Andrew, hey it's John," the voicemail began. "It's 7:27 east coast time. I had a wonderful conversation with Bunny; she will be there no matter what. She's offered me to come up there and stay if I need to and I may end up doing that some. Anyway, she's a terrific person, God what a sweetie. Anyway, she's totally there and I think we can completely count on her and I just wanted you to hear that and to once again to tell you I love you& uhh, I really love you Andrew.

Mellon is a key part of the federal case against Edwards.

In the federal indictment, federal prosecutors say Mellon donated $725,000, sending personal checks hidden in candy boxes and "falsely listed items of furniture in the memo lines."

Prosecutors say it was all part of the scheme to keep the affair and the child Edwards had with Rielle Hunter a secret as he ran for president in 2008.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty and says he did not break the law. His representatives have characterized the money from Mellon as "gifts" unrelated to the presidential run.

At Edwards's first court appearance, federal prosecutors convinced a judge Edwards should not be allowed to see Mellon as he fights criminal charges. The I-Team does not know if Edwards received the millions earlier this spring but such a gift would not be illegal if he did.

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Tags:
andrew young, john edwards, rielle hunter, iteam, abc11 investigates, steve daniels
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