Attorney: Donor Knew Money Wasn't For Edwards' Campaign

By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
The attorney for a 101-year-old billionaire donor whose money is at the center of John Edwards

Former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards arrives at federal court in Greensboro, North Carolina on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Edwards is accused of campaign finance corruption for allegedly illegally using donor funds to cover-up an extra-marital affair which lead to the birth of a child.

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (CNN) -- The attorney for a 101-year-old billionaire donor whose money is at the center of John Edwards' corruption trial told jurors Monday that his client knew the hundreds of thousands of dollars she gave the former U.S. presidential candidate was not a campaign contribution.

Alex Forger said his client, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, "liked John Edwards as an individual" and supported him, giving the ex-senator $725,000.

But he said Mellon had "no doubt" that at least some of it wasn't for Edwards' campaign.

Mellon's donations, at least in part, were used to conceal the former senator's mistress, Rielle Hunter, whom he later admitted to having an affair and fathering a child with while seeking the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Forger had earlier recalled in federal court in Greensboro, North Carolina, that he became aware of the ruse in September 2007 when his client almost bounced a $150,000 check.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty. He could face up to 30 years behind bars if convicted.

His attorneys said the former U.S. senator from North Carolina was unaware of the scheme, which violates campaign finance laws, blaming aide Andrew Young, who had claimed paternity of Edwards' child during the campaign.

Young admitted during questioning that he used some donations for his own personal benefit -- particularly to fund construction of a home that included a pool and a theater.

But prosecutors said Edwards broke federal law by accepting Mellon's money and more than $200,000 from the late Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer who was his finance chairman.

That money was used to pay for Hunter's living and medical expenses, travel and accommodations to keep the mistress out of sight, while Edwards made his second White House run, according to prosecutors.

Analysts said Edwards' knowledge of the finance scheme remains a central question of whether or not to convict the former politician on corruption charges.

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