Lawyer: Edwards knew money was for his benefit
Forger said he first learned about the money Mellon was sending the interior designer in October 2007, when a banker called to say there were insufficient funds in a personal account to cover the $150,000 sum.
Forger said he questioned Mellon about the check, and she told him the money was really "for the benefit of John Edwards." Forger knew Mellon, who rarely leaves her expansive Virginia estate, was an admirer of Edwards. She had already given millions to organizations supporting the presidential candidate, who was then campaigning in early primary states for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
"She said she was impressed with Mr. Edwards and thought he would make a fine president, reminiscent of her good friend John F. Kennedy," Forger testified.
Dogged by tabloid reports about his affair, Edwards was forced to withdraw from the race in January 2008. In the following months, it also became clear he also wouldn't be the Democratic nominee for vice president, as he had been four years earlier.
The following May, Forger attended an event with Edwards and his wife at a New York art gallery. Forger said when he asked him about the checks the former candidate suggested they step outside for a private conversation. Forger asked Edwards if he knew Bryan Huffman, to whom the checks had been written. Edwards denied he knew the interior designer.
In fact, Edwards had met Huffman more than a year earlier at Mellon's estate. Huffman also testified earlier this week that Edwards had called him several times, including that very month.
Forger spoke with Edwards about the checks again that summer, after the candidate had been caught by tabloid reporters visiting his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and the baby for which he still denied paternity at a Beverly Hills hotel.
Edwards then said he had no idea his aide, who had been helping take care of Hunter for more than a year, had asked Mellon for the $725,000. He apologized and suggested Young should have to repay the money.
On the witness stand Thursday, Huffman, 48, described himself as the elderly millionaire's "evening friend" — someone she calls for a chat before bedtime. He testified about participating in a scheme where checks were written to the interior designer with notations such as "Antique Charleston Table" in the memo line. Huffman would endorse them and pass them along to Young.
He said the ruse was invented by Mellon to throw off her family money managers, including Forger, by making it appear they were engaged in a furniture business.
On Friday, the congenial Charlotte designer testified about how Mellon reacted after learning some of her money had gone to the cover up. He said Mellon was not one to judge someone for having an extramarital affair. Her relationship with her first husband overlapped with that of her second.
But, Huffman said, Mellon had an opinion about how her money was spent.
"She thought maybe you should probably pay for your girlfriend yourself," Huffman replied.
As the courtroom erupted in laughter, even the former North Carolina senator seated at the defense table cracked a smile.
Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck
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