Rielle Hunter was recently seen with John Edwards in a Greensboro coffee shop, and to many, they appeared like a married couple. Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, is accused of using hundreds of thousands of dollars from 101-year-old heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and another donor to conceal his affair with Hunter.
Edwards allegedly broke a federal law by accepting about $725,000 from Mellon and more than $200,000 from Fred Baron, a now-deceased Texas lawyer who was his finance chairman.
The money was used to pay for Hunter’s living and medical expenses, travel and accommodations to keep her out of sight while he made his second White House run in 2008, prosecutors say.
Edwards is accused of concealing the money from the public and the Federal Election Commission, which polices political contributions, by filing false and misleading campaign disclosure reports.
“This affair was a gamble with exceedingly high stakes,” prosecutor David Harbach told jurors during Monday’s opening statements. “If the affair went public, it would have destroyed any chance to become president and he knew it. Two of his most enthusiastic supporters happened to be wealthy, and he knew that, too. He made a choice to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars. He made a choice to break the law.”
Edwards admitted to his affair with Hunter in 2008, after his presidential ambitions foundered.
In 2010, he admitted he was the father of Hunter’s daughter.
Edwards could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all six felony and misdemeanor counts against him. Seven of the 16 jurors, four of whom are alternates, are women.