Published April 30, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C. – In an emotional day of testimony, the wife of John Edwards' former aide said Monday that the politician's plan to have her husband claim paternity of Edwards' love child made her "upset" to the point of screaming -- but that Edwards stepped in to personally convince her to go along.
Cheri Young, who took the witness stand as the Edwards trial enters its second week, described how her husband, Andrew Young, initially claimed paternity of Edwards' love child, which she said was the candidate's idea. She occasionally broke down in tears as she testified in the criminal trial of her husband's former boss.
Young said she was in a McDonald's drive-through when her husband told her about the paternity plan.
"The first thought in my mind was, how in the world could Mr. Edwards ask one more thing of me, of us?" she recalled. "I was mad. I was upset. Of course I said, 'Absolutely Not!' I screamed at him. I cursed at him."
But Young said she eventually agreed to go along with the plan after a telephone conference call with her husband, Edwards and the candidate's mistress, Rielle Hunter.
During that call, Cheri Young said Edwards went into a stump speech, explaining why his presidency would be good for the country.
In court Monday, she described a conversation she had with her husband after the call.
"I told him that I feel like everything had been dumped in my lap, that everyone else was on board but me," Young said. "I didn't want the responsibility of knowing that because I wasn't on board, because I didn't want to try it, the campaign would explode and I'd have to live with that."
She said Edwards assured her that using donations to hide his pregnant mistress during the 2008 presidential campaign was legal. Young said Edwards seemed very angry during the conversation and explained he had cleared the arrangement with campaign lawyers.
"Get the money in," she recalled Edwards saying.
Cheri Young's testimony is important to federal prosecutors, who are trying to prove that nearly $1 million that two wealthy donors provided to hide Hunter during Edwards' run for president was intended to influence the outcome of the election. They argue the funds were "campaign contributions" and, therefore, subject to the individual donor cap of $2,300 under federal campaign finance law.
The defense insists the gifts were private money from friends who were simply trying to spare Edwards' cancer-stricken wife from finding out about the affair. Edwards' lawyers tried to paint Young's husband as an opportunist who profited from the controversy surrounding the affair.
But on Monday, Cheri Young spoke of the sacrifices her family made to house Hunter and shield her from an aggressive and invasive tabloid press.
According to Young, Hunter was a high-maintenance guest.
After living with the Youngs, Hunter moved to her own house nearby. Young said she handed Hunter a list of utility companies to call to set up new service.
According to Young, Hunter handled the list back to her and said, "Set it up."
She also recalled eating with Hunter at a diner in Aspen, Colo. Young said Hunter complained that her Reuben sandwich had the wrong sauce and then called her spiritual adviser and healer for help.
Young said she and her husband wrote several checks, including one for $8,000, to help Hunter pay for her spiritual adviser's services.