Rielle Hunter on hand for grand jury

Staff writersAugust 7, 2009 

— The former girlfriend of John Edwards spent nine hours Thursday inside the federal courthouse in Raleigh, where a federal grand jury is investigating whether Edwards misused campaign funds as hush money for her.

Rielle Hunter left the courthouse at 5:40 p.m. with her 17-month-old daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter. Also with Hunter were an unidentified man and two federal agents. She did not speak to reporters.

Hunter also was silent as she entered the courthouse with her daughter Thursday morning. It's unclear how much time, if any, she spent testifying during the day.

Edwards' Democratic presidential campaign paid Hunter, a video grapher, $100,000 in 2006 to produce videos offering an intimate look at Edwards. As part of its investigation, the grand jury may ask questions that will help determine whether Hunter was paid a fair rate for her work.

The child was born in February 2008. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, has denied being the father of Frances, though he has admitted an affair with Hunter during his failed run for the presidential nomination.

Hunter held Frances close as she followed two federal agents into the courthouse. Frances wore a white dress and floppy sun hat.

Andrew Young, a former Edwards aide who originally claimed paternity of Hunter's daughter, has pitched a tell-all book to a New York publisher. In his proposal, Young said that he is not the father of Frances and that he earlier took responsibility for the child as a favor to Edwards.

Edwards, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in the 2004 election, is married to Elizabeth Edwards, who has cancer. They live in Chapel Hill.

Federal prosecutors have declined to confirm or deny that Edwards is being investigated, but he acknowledged the probe to The News & Observer in May.

The investigation requires grand jurors to sift through millions of dollars gathered over years to help start Edwards' presidential run. Much of it was collected in large chunks by nonprofit groups kept at arm's length from Edwards. It is not clear how all the money was spent.

The jury meets in secret. Its discussions are confidential. The jurors have the power to bring criminal charges but can also decline to pursue a matter brought before them by prosecutors.

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