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John Edwards' flights to visit campaign contributors raise questions

With John Edwards under investigation by a federal grand jury, two former prosecutors say a trip he made to the home of a wealthy supporter — and possible witness — could raise legal questions.

On Friday, a Raleigh TV station showed Edwards at the Raleigh-Durham airport walking off a plane belonging to Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a wealthy heiress who supported the former Democrat's presidential candidate's campaign.

Flight records showed the plane flew from RDU to the private airstrip at Mellon's northern Virginia home. In 2008 Mellon's holding company gave $3.48 million to Alliance for a New America, a 527 group tied to Edwards' presidential campaign. Prosecutors investigating Edwards have talked to Mellon's attorneys.

The grand jury is investigating whether Edwards used campaign money to cover up an affair with mistress Rielle Hunter. Charlotte lawyer Ken Bell, a former federal prosecutor, said Edwards' flight could cause an appearance problem, if not legal.

"It would create a danger of being accused of trying to influence a witness or obstruct justice," he said. "It's dangerous and perhaps inadvisable, but not necessarily illegal."

Politico reported Monday that Andrew Young, the former aide who once claimed to be the father of Hunter's baby, is alleging that Mellon paid some of Hunter's bills. It's unclear whether Mellon herself has talked to prosecutors.

Former prosecutor Kieran Shanahan of Raleigh, now a defense attorney, told WRAL TV last week he would be disappointed if he had a client involved in a federal probe who made contact with "someone associated with the investigation."

Meanwhile, a private trust fund with apparent ties to Edwards bought a house in Charlotte last month, fueling speculation that it was for Hunter.

To read the complete article, visit www.charlotteobserver.com.

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