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Prosecutors deciding whether to indict John Edwards over payments made to keep his pregnant mistress in hiding are spending more time with their chief witness, Andrew Young, who posed as the father of Edwards’ out-of-wedlock baby during the 2008 presidential campaign.
The Associated Press saw Young leaving his attorney’s Washington office after meeting with the prosecutors for more than four hours Thursday.
The interview is particularly notable because of its timing. Young has already been questioned by a grand jury investigating Edwards in 2009, and the Justice Department is considering whether to move forward with an indictment.
Justice Department officials requested the meeting, according to a person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss a legal matter.
The prosecutors could be interested in taking a closer look at Young to see how he’ll hold up as a witness, since his credibility has been challenged in the past.
Young, who was an aide to Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign, initially claimed he was the father of the child and traveled around the country helping keep Edwards mistress Rielle Hunter hidden. He has since come out with a book detailing the lengths Edwards and his allies went to cover up the affair and child. The book is being turned into a Hollywood film.
Around the time the book was released in January 2010, Edwards acknowledged that he had fathered the girl, Frances Quinn Hunter.
Hunter also sued Young around the time he was releasing the tell-all. Her attorneys aggressively questioned his credibility then, and a North Carolina judge said he was troubled by a series of seemingly conflicting statements Young made under oath in the lawsuit involving a purported sex tape depicting Edwards. Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones considered sending Young to jail for contempt but backed away as Young’s lawyers argued that the discrepancies were memory lapses. Young has said he had the sex tape simply to corroborate his story.
Young’s attorney, David Geneson, did not return a call for comment on the meeting, and the Justice Department declined to comment.
The investigation centers on the money spent to keep Hunter and Young in hiding. Investigators are looking chiefly at whether funds paid to Hunter and Young — from outside political groups and Edwards’ political donors — should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid, according to several people involved in the case who have described it on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe.
Young would be their chief witness from inside the money exchanges, since one donor who gave them money has died and the second is 100 years old.
The investigation is being jointly run by the Republican-appointed U.S. attorney in Raleigh, N.C., and the public integrity section of Justice Department in Washington.
The Justice Department has reason to be cautious in pursuing the case after the public integrity section’s last prosecution of a high-profile politician, the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, ended so badly. A judge overturned Stevens’ conviction and ordered a criminal investigation into the prosecutors’ conduct after the department admitted its lawyers did not turn over important, exculpatory evidence to the defense team.
Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press