(GREENSBORO, S.C.) — The wife of John Edwards’ former aide testified Monday that she was “disgusted” by Edwards’ financial scheme to hide his pregnant mistress, but agreed to help after Edwards personally assured her that it was legal.
“I wanted to hear it from Mr. Edwards myself,” Cheri Young told the court Monday, once she was told that checks meant to keep mistress Rielle Hunter out of sight would be written out to Cheri Young’s maiden name.
An impatient Edwards did call Mrs. Young, the wife of his longtime aide Andrew Young, who had been helping to hide Hunter.
“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,” she testified that Edwards said to her. “He was very short and very angry.”
“I cannot tell you how disgusted I was. Why me? This was my husband’s fight. He did this all day. Fix the problem, fix the problem. Now guess what? This is now my problem,” she said.
It was the second time jurors heard a witness testify that Edwards had insisted that the financial scheme was legal.
Edwards is accused of using campaign donations to hide his mistress. If convicted, Edwards could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Cheri Young, 38, a diminutive part-time pediatric nurse, took the stand Monday at the start of the second week of testimony. It was an often emotional, tearful recounting of the stress upon her and her family as they tried to keep Edwards’ secret during the 2007-08 presidential campaign as Edwards kept asking her and her husband for more help.
Initially it was the checks, then it was to have Hunter move in with them. They later hit the road with Hunter so the media couldn’t find her. Mrs. Young burst into tears while recounting how Edwards then suggested that her husband claim paternity for his baby.
Each time Mrs. Young gave in, including over the question of paternity.
“My husband and I had both done everything to help make this man president….If I didn’t do this, take care of this, the campaign was going down,” she said when confronted with the plan to funnel money through her name.
When confronted with the plan for her husband to say he had an affair with Hunter and got her pregnant, Cheri Young said, “The first thing in my mind was how in the world could Mr. Edwards ask one more thing of me? Of us?'”
She testified that she was furious at her husband, that she “screamed at him, cursed at him.”
Mrs. Young’s crying prompted the judge to halt proceedings and send the jurors out of the courtroom. When she had composed herself, Cheri Young explained to the court that everybody was on board with the paternity plan except her.
If she refused, “The campaign would explode and I would be responsible. So I ultimately agreed to go along with the lie.”
Mrs. Young described living with Edwards’ mistress as increasingly stressful. At first she was “shaking in her boots” when she went to cash the checks meant for Hunter’s expenses. There was the abrupt announcement that Hunter was coming to live with them because their home was in a gated community, making it hard for the press to find her.
“She walked into the hallway. She took a spin and opened her arms out wide and said, ‘I’m here.’ I literally fell into the couch and I was just in awe. There was no hello,” Cheri Young said.
Hunter treated them as servants, she said. “She told us what she wanted and we did it,” Cheri Young said.
When the National Enquirer tracked Hunter to their home, the Youngs had a fright. Their children came downstairs in their pajamas one evening for a snack and they saw a man peering into their window.
“I screamed, my children screamed. And we called 911,” she testified.
They hit the road to keep Hunter unavailable to the press and her demands increased to the point where she resisted allowing the Youngs to return home so they could put their kids in school.
Mrs. Young can expect a tough grilling during cross examination. Her husband was questioned for two days by Edwards’ lead attorney, Abbe Lowell.
She can expect to be asked why about $1 million of the alleged hush money ended up in her family’s pockets and helped bankroll the construction of their luxurious North Carolina home.
Edwards’ defense team laced into Andrew Young, claiming that he used the scandal to enrich himself. They also claimed that Edwards used the money to hide Hunter from his wife, not from the government or the public.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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