In May 2011, just weeks before John Edwards was indicted for allegedly using $725,000 from an elderly heiress to hide his pregnant mistress, Edwards asked Rachel "Bunny" Mellon for an additional $3 million, her librarian testified today.
Tony Willis serves as Mellon's personal librarian and custodian of her correspondence. Mellon asked Willis to send a letter she dictated responding to a plea by Edwards asking "her for some additional money to get him established," he said.
"I understood her to say he asked for $3 million," Willis said, but Mellon denied the request saying "she couldn't provide the money."
Willis' testimony about the letter was made after a defense objection and the jury was excused. Lawyers from both sides made impassioned pleas about whether or not the letter should be admitted into the record.
The prosecution is trying to prove that Edwards willfully, personally and routinely asked Mellon for money, bolstering its claim that Edwards knew about the $725,000 Mellon gave him over the course his campaign to win the presidency between 2006 and 2008.
The letter is proof Edwards "alone went to Mrs. Mellon and trying to get $3 million more," argued prosecutor Robert Higdon.
If convicted of illegally using campaign donations to hide his mistress, Edwards could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The defense has argued that Edwards never asked Mellon for money directly, and any money requested by his aide Andrew Young was done in an attempt by Young to steal money from the wealthy heiress himself.
Edwards' lawyers said the letter came years after the presidential campaign and the existence of his relationship with Rielle Hunter and their baby was acknowledged, and after Mellon had been questions by the FBI. Defense lawyers argued the letter should not be admitted as evidence.
The judge upheld the objection and the jury was brought back after discussions of the letter had ended.
Edwards, however, quietly celebrated a small victory for his defense when a crucial witness, Mellon's lawyer, said he believed that Mellon's cash was intended as a friendly gift and not as a political contribution.
"It was a good morning for the home team," Edwards whispered to his 30-year-old daughter Cate following the testimony of Alex Forger, an attorney who has represents Mellon.
Forger testified today that Mellon gave Edwards $725,000 during the his presidential campaign out of an abiding sense of loyalty and friendship and not as a political contribution.
"In later years she had few close friends," Forger said of his longtime client. "Her husband had died, and her daughter was ill? She took a liking to John Edwards as she had done with others? She liked him as an individual, as a person, not because he was a candidate."
Mellon gave Edwards all that money because "she felt very strongly for John Edwards," adding, "she wasn't interested in becoming secretary of state."
That testimony contradicts the prosecution's narrative that Mellon gave Edwards the money as a political contribution, which he used in part to hide his mistress and their love child.
Forger said he first learned Mellon was giving Edwards money, transferred through one of Mellon's friends to one of Edwards' aides, when a personal check Mellon had written for $175,000 bounced.
When he asked Mellon what the money was for, she said it was a personal gift to Edwards and not a political contribution.
Forger also said that when he first contacted Edwards in August 2008 to ask about the money, Edwards denied knowing about his aides receiving money from Mellon, but later admitted it was for his benefit.