When John Edwards faced the prospect of an indictment that could put him behind bars, he calmly told his mistress he would probably wind up in a low-security prison in Virginia more like a country club than a jail. She quickly told him she and their daughter would move there to be near him if that happened.
Rielle Hunter details their phone call just days before his indictment in her new memoir, purchased by The Associated Press ahead of its release.
"What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter and Me," also includes Rielle Hunter's mixed views on Edwards' parenting of their daughter Quinn and descriptions of Elizabeth Edwards' outbursts. At the end of the book, Hunter says she still has romantic feelings for Edwards but doesn't know how their relationship will turn out.
The book also provides a window into Edwards' psyche as federal prosecutors began their case against him. Days before his indictment Hunter asked: "So if you went to jail, what kind of jail would it be? One of those country clubs?"
"He said, 'Yeah.'"
"'Where?'" she asked.
"So Quinn and I will move to Virginia. Virginia is a great state."
The only low-security federal prison in Virginia is in Petersburg, where former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry once served time.
On the day of the indictment, the two shared a surreal phone call as a newspaper reporter banged on her door in Charlotte, while the man she refers to as "Johnny" throughout the book called her cell phone to say that he was also being pursued.
"'I've got helicopters circling my house,' Johnny said."
New York publishers had said they were not interested in Hunter's book, citing her negative image, so it is instead being released through a Dallas-based boutique publisher, BenBella Books, on June 26.
Federal prosecutors spent a year prosecuting Edwards, culminating in a six-week trial that ended last month. Jurors acquitted Edwards on one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions and deadlocked on five other felony counts. The judge declared a mistrial. Federal prosecutors then said in a court order earlier this month that they wouldn't retry Edwards, and the charges against him were dropped.
Neither Edwards nor Hunter testified.
Prosecutors had accused Edwards, 59, of masterminding a scheme to use about $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy political donors to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.
The trial publicized intimate details about Edwards' affair with Hunter as his wife, Elizabeth, was dying of cancer. Much of the book describes their unfolding relationship and the lengths to which Hunter went to sneak in and out of Edwards' hotel rooms, even after her contract as a videographer ended. She also describes paparazzi chases after news of their affair broke.
Hunter writes that Edwards is a doting father when he's around their daughter but that his obligations to his other children curtail their time together. The book features several pictures of the father and daughter together, smiling. Immediately after his trial, Edwards said during a news conference — with his adult daughter, Cate, by his side — that he loved Quinn "more than any of you can ever imagine." Quinn is now 4 and lives with Hunter in Charlotte.
"He is a great dad to her when he is with her," Hunter writes.
Kinnard reported from Columbia, S.C.