(GREENSBORO, N.C.) — Just before John Edwards went public about fathering his mistress’ daughter, he confessed to his speechwriter that he was aware that a wealthy donor had supported the woman and his baby girl.
Wendy Button testified Tuesday in his trial that Edwards dropped his denials about Rielle Hunter being his mistress, fathering her baby and being unaware of money being spent to take care of Hunter and to keep his secret while running for president.
Button testified Tuesday that while preparing his speech Edwards told her that “he had known all along that Fred Baron had been taking care of things.”
Baron, a wealthy Texas trial lawyer who served for a time as Edwards’ campaign treasurer, had donated thousands to Edwards’ campaign as well as a couple hundred thousand dollars to help protect his secret.
In an original draft of the speech Edwards gave coming clean about the paternity of his daughter Frances Quinn, Edwards thanked Baron for his financial support, Button told the court.
“While I never asked my friend Fred Baron for a dime, I stood by while he supported my daughter. And I will reimburse his wife,” Edwards had initially intended to say in his apology speech, Button testified.
But that line was later dropped and replaced, she said. Edwards said for “legal and practical purposes” that line need to be changed to read, “Some people without my knowledge supported Quinn,” Button said.
The speechwriter testified that she was “deeply” concerned about changing the language of the apology to be less specific. She said she knew the phrase “without my knowledge” in reference to the donors who paid to hide his mistress and daughter “wasn’t true.”
Button asked Edwards if he should also apologize to Andrew Young, the aide who lied on Edwards’ behalf and falsely claimed he had fathered Quinn to protect his boss’ political career.
But Edwards said Young should not be recognized in the statement because he was “a bad guy.”
The hush money came from Baron and wealthy heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon.
Edwards is accused of illegally using nearly $1 million in campaign donations to hide his mistress. If convicted, Edwards could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Edwards’ defense is that the money was never intended for political purposes, but only to keep his mistress a secret from his wife. He claims he did not know about much of the money Young had sought from wealthy donors and that Young was out to keep much of it for himself.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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