Bunny Mellon's Relatives Make Grand Jury Appearance in John Edwards Investigation

Bump and Update: Four relatives of Bunny Mellon are at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, NC where the grand jury investigating John Edwards' campaign finances is meeting:
Sources told WRAL News that Stacy Lloyd III, the son of heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon; his two sons, Stacy Lloyd IV and Thomas Lloyd; and Thomas Lloyd's wife, Ricki Lloyd, were called to testify before the grand jury.

The FBI has already spoken to Bunny Mellon, having made two trips to her farm. Her lawyer, Alexander Forger, said months ago he testified before the grand jury and said Edwards did nothing wrong.

Why is this heating up now? Perhaps because Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding, who reportedly is not leaving the office to make way for Obama's nominee Thomas Walker, until he's done with Edwards' investigation, has more time on his hands having finally concluded the investigation of former Gov. Mike Easley (which ended with a whimper rather than a bang). [More..]

Original Post:

Mellon Plane Arrives in NC: John Edwards Grand Jury Investigation

Two former aides to John Edwards testified before a federal grand jury investigating the finances of former presidential candidate John Edwards.

The local ABC news affiliate reports:

Also Thursday, ABC11's Chopper 11 HD filmed a private plane - reportedly with members of the Mellon family on board - arriving at RDU.

It sounds like the grand jury is investigating Edward's PAC. ABC says it was the PAC that paid Rielle Hunter $114,000 for the "work" she did for the campaign. Heiress Rachel Bunny Mellon's contributions went from the entity that holds her fortune, Oak Springs Farm, LLC, to The Alliance for a New America, a PAC supporting Edwards.

She is now 100 years old, and it's doubtful she personally will appear before the grand jury. So who is testifying on her behalf? Could it be New York lawyer Alexander Forger who has Bunny Mellon's power of attorney? He also was a strong Edwards supporter.

From a 2007 WaPo article:

She gave $3.4 million in late 2007 to The Alliance for a New America, a nonprofit supporting his candidacy. [T]here has also been a hefty infusion of private money behind the efforts of Alliance for a New America, a group that is promoting the candidacy of Democrat John Edwards. The filing shows that on Dec. 19 [2006], the Alliance group received $495,000 from Oak Spring Farms LLC,[Read Mellon] a corporate entity operating from a posh hotel on Central Park South in New York City (where Alexander Forger kept shi office or home.)

Land records and other documents trace the Oak Spring corporation to Manhattan trust attorney Alexander Forger. Forger holds a power of attorney for Rachel Lambert Mellon, who is 97 years old. Other records and published reports show Oak Spring Farms is controlled by Rachel Mellon. ...The same Oak Springs group made a $250,000 contribution to the Edwards-affiliated One America 527 group in 2006.

Why would Bunny be so excited about John Edwards? From the Daily Beast: She wanted John to beat Hillary.

One reason Bunny Mellon was supporting John Edwards, she told friends, was that somebody had to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. Shortly after Bill Clinton was inaugurated, Mrs. Mellon heard to her dismay that Hillary was planning to display modern sculpture in the First Lady’s Garden at the White House. Mrs. Mellon—a self-taught horticulturalist and landscape designer who had created a special First Lady’s garden for her friend Jacqueline Kennedy (as well as helping Jackie redecorate the White House and refurbish the White House Rose Garden)—lobbied Hillary to leave things as they were. After all, Bunny Mellon argued, it was a matter of respecting history: Ladybird Johnson, no less, had formally named the area the “Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.”

“It’s my garden now,” Hillary allegedly replied—thus earning the lasting enmity of the offended heiress. (The State Department had no response).

From the ABC article:

Mellon's involvement in the decision to donate to the Alliance group is unknown. But published reports and federal election records show Forger has been a major supporter of Edwards' candidacy. Crain's Business Journal reported in February that Forger and "a group of prominent New York lawyers" hosted a fund-raiser for Edwards at Essex House -- the Central Park South address where his office is located. Forger has also personally donated $4,600 to Edwards' campaign, according to FEC records.

In the midst of all this investigation, WRAL reported John Edwards flew out of Raleigh on the Mellon plane to visit her in Virginia in December, 2009.

The private jet that Edwards flew on Friday is registered to Oak Springs Farms, the corporate entity that holds Mellon's fortune. The flight plan had the plane landing at Mellon's private airstrip. Edwards' friend and former law partner, David Kirby, also was on the plane.

It is a little odd to have your client make a pre-indictment visit to someone bound to be a scrutinized by the grand jury, but Edwards is a smart guy and he brought a lawyer pal with him. I think it's safe to say Alexander Forger was also at that meeting. Putting on my speculator's hat, I'd say John went to apologize to Bunny for landing her in the middle of this. He probably told her is they question her, she should just tell the truth. After all, he might tell her (and Alexander), he had no idea the PAC money was being used to pay Rielle for anything but her legitimate video work and some furniture. It's a risky move, because if Bunny or Alexander get called to the grand jury, and they no longer like Edwards as much, they could easily twist their story from that to something like "He told me to tell the grand jury....." which would result in an obstruction of justice charge for Edwards, if believed.

So there are two "independent" groups at work here tied to Edwards: The One America PAC and the Alliance for a New America. Bunny Mellon contributed to both.

According to WRAL the investigation began as one thing, the investigation of funds to Rielle and the Youngs, and then moved on to another:

According to a source, when that process wrapped-up, prosecutors in Raleigh sent the case to the Department of Justice in Washington for a review. The Justice Department then told prosecutors in Raleigh to interview more people and get more information about the people who donated money to help Edwards' former aide Andrew Young, his wife and Hunter live a life on the run.

Translated (in my view): The grand jury finished with Rielle and Andrew and were told by Main Justice they had to case, they should start digging into donors' contributions. One reason might be that the late Fred Baron, the finance chair for the Edwards campaign, maintained before he died that he used his own money to fuel Rielle and the Young's life style in seclusion and that it was done without Edwards' knowledge. Lacking evidence to indict Edwards, rather than closing the book on the investigation, it seems they have switched the focus and expanded it, looking for wrongdoing in the PACs and donations that Edwards was aware of. Mellon gave $3.4 million to The Alliance for a New America (the nonprofit supporting Edwards' candidacy) in late 2007. Oak Springs gave $250,000 to Edward's One America PAC in 2006.

So they have a 100 year old woman, whose biggest concern at this late stage of her life is her garden egacy.

Unless John Edwards has done something stupid in his post-investigation contact with subpoenaed witnesses to result in an obstruction of justice count (and I think he's too smart for that), I won't be surprised to see this investigation end with no indictment against him. And I'll laugh out loud if it turns out Andrew Young gets indicted. What poetic justice that would be.

If Bunny, Baron and Forger all say Edwards didn't know the funds were being used to pay Rielle for anything other than her "legitimate video work", I don't see his crime. Nor do I see a crime if Baron arranged for his own funds to support Young and Hunter without Edwards' knowledge.

I can't imagine any U.S. Attorney indicting John Edwards on the uncorroborated word of an oddball like Andrew Young, given his history, and his personal bias against Edwards. It seems more likely to me that in Young's feverish state to nail John Edwards, he exaggerated or made some stuff up to the grand jury. If he's caught doing that, his immunity deal is likely gone, and he could be the one facing charges instead of John Edwards.

It does sound like the case is winding down. I hope John Edwards gets an "all clear" from the grand jury. Whatever his character lapses for the Rielle/Elizabeth fiasco, they fall outside of the criminal justice system and should remain outside. He's already been punished for that in the court of public opinion. He couldn't be elected dog-catcher at this point.

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  • Display: Sort:
    You know, Hunter did do video work. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Susie from Philly on Fri Dec 03, 2010 at 07:40:37 AM EST
    I saw the videos before they disappeared. They were really good, and worth the money.

    I saw the videos also. Really (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Dec 03, 2010 at 09:50:36 AM EST

    P.S.  Might government agency be examing whether Ms. Mellon really intended to give all that money to Edwards' PACs?  Let's take a closer look at Mr. Forger.


    Lots of awards for helping the poor (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Dec 03, 2010 at 12:18:37 PM EST
    See here. He was President of Legal Services Corp. See Here. He was a trustee of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' will. He's a former Chairman of Legal Aid Society of New York (1983 to 1993.) He is a graduate of Princeton University Yale law school.

    I had my speculator's hat on. Thinking (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Fri Dec 03, 2010 at 01:31:28 PM EST
    possible undue influence over a very elderly person.  Wouldn't be the first reported incidence.

    Hunter's video work (none / 0) (#4)
    by KD on Fri Dec 03, 2010 at 12:12:09 PM EST
    Is that the video she took of Edwards or the video of the two of them getting it on while she was pregnant?

    Lol. That's no farm-that's an estate. (none / 0) (#7)
    by Joan in VA on Fri Dec 03, 2010 at 04:40:30 PM EST