During an emotional day at John Edwards' federal corruption trial in North Carolina on Monday, Cheri Young, the wife of former Edwards aide Andrew Young, broke down during her testimony as she detailed how the couple hid his affair with Rielle Hunter, Edwards' then-pregnant mistress, during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Cheri Young began to cry when she was asked why she went along with the plan—initiated by Edwards—to put Hunter up in their home in an effort to keep her from public view.
"As she began to weep," the Associated Press reported, "U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles dismissed the jury to give her time to compose herself."
Edwards "sat back in his chair and put two fingers to his pursed lips," the AP said. "As Young dabbed her tears with a tissue, the former U.S. senator glanced at his watch."
"I felt like everything had been dumped in my lap," Young said after composing herself. "Everybody was on board but me. ... I didn't want the campaign to explode and for it to be my fault. I decided to live with a lie."
Edwards suggested that Andrew Young say Hunter was carrying his baby. "'Nobody cares about two staffers having an affair,'" Cheri Young recalled Edwards telling the couple during a conference call prior to the 2008 Iowa caucuses.
It was the second day of testimony from Cheri Young, who took the witness stand Friday. She told the court that she was "disgusted" with having to help funnel payments from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to aid in the cover-up.
"I cannot tell you how disgusted I was," Young said. "Why me? This was my husband's fight. Now I had to fix it."
Young said Edwards assured her the arrangement was legal: "I heard Mr. John Edwards tell me on the phone that he checked with the campaign lawyers and this is legal. 'Get the money in.' He was very short and very angry."
Andrew Young, the prosecution's star witness, testified for four days last week, describing in elaborate detail how he was instructed to hide Edwards' affair with Hunter—and how they handled the alleged donations from Mellon and Texas lawyer Fred Baron to do so.
"My husband and I had both done everything to help make this man president," Cheri Young said. "If I didn't do this, take care of this, the campaign was going down."
Cheri Young also recalled how a National Enquirer reporter came to their Chapel Hill, N.C., home on a tip Hunter was living with them. "I screamed, my children screamed," Young said. "And we called 911."
Edwards faces six criminal counts—including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Hunter. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
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- Crime & Justice
- Politics & Government
- John Edwards
- Andrew Young
- Rielle Hunter