Local Politics

Ex-aide's wife: Edwards ordered 'get the money in'

Posted April 30, 2012

— Andrew Young's devotion to his former boss, John Edwards, was so complete that he pulled his wife into an elaborate scheme to obtain money for Edwards' pregnant mistress and then hide her from the media during the 2008 presidential campaign, Young's wife tearfully testified Monday.

After Young spent most of last week testifying in Edwards' criminal trial, prosecutors are using Cheri Young to corroborate much of his account and rebuild his credibility, which was eroded in two days of cross-examination, for jurors.

Her testimony was cut short Monday afternoon when she went home with a migraine headache. She is expected back on the witness stand Tuesday, when defense attorneys will likely begin cross-examining her.

Edwards is charged with conspiracy, filing false campaign reports and four counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions in connection with the nearly $1 million that two donors secretly paid in 2007-08 to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he ran for the White House.

Andrew Young began working for Edwards shortly after Edwards was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, and Cheri Young said got used to "not having my husband" because he was at the beck and call of Edwards and his family. Yet, Edwards' demands on her husband reached a new level after Hunter entered the picture, she said.

The Youngs had made close to a $450,000 profit from the sale of their Raleigh home, and Edwards asked for some of the money for Hunter, Cheri Young said, adding that she told her husband to refuse the request.

John Edwards case graphic WRAL.com archive: John Edwards case

Edwards then told Andrew Young he had to find another way to pay for Hunter's living expenses, she said. After other options didn't work out, she said, they settled on Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a Virginia heiress who said she would be willing to handle any expenses to help Edwards get elected.

Mellon said she wanted to write the checks from her personal account to Bryan Huffman, her interior decorator, so her lawyer wouldn't get involved, and Edwards wanted the checks forwarded to Cheri Young, who could cash them using her maiden name so that the money couldn't be connected to her husband or Edwards' campaign, Cheri Young testified.

"I cannot tell you how disgusted I was," she said about being drawn into the effort. "Why me? This was my husband’s fight. He was the one to put out the fires. That’s all he did every day for them – fix the problem, fix the problem, fix the problem. Now, guess what, I had to fix it.“

Because her husband was a fundraiser for Edwards, she said, she knew there were limits to campaign donations. So, she questioned the legality of Mellon's checks, which started out at $10,000 and quickly grew to six figures, but she said Edwards assured her and Andrew Young that the payments were legal.

"I heard Mr. John Edwards tell me on the phone that he checked with campaign lawyers, and he told me this is not a campaign donation. This was legal," she testified. "(Edwards said,) 'Get the money in,' and he was very short and very angry."

Cheri Young said she and her husband also had a vested interest in keeping Hunter happy and quiet.

"My husband and I had both given everything for years to make this man president, and we were at the peak point. If I didn’t do this to take care of this woman, we were going down,” she said.

Sketch of Cheri Young on witness stand Wife of former Edwards aide breaks down on witness stand

The defense told jurors last week that Andrew Young schemed to get money from Mellon to finance a lavish lifestyle for his family and that Edwards knew nothing about the money she paid out.

Both Andrew and Cheri Young said that the money from Mellon went into their regular bank account, but that they also paid Hunter's rent, bought her a car and paid for her other expenses out of that account. Andrew Young admitted last week that spending on a home he and his wife were building in Chapel Hill also increased during the period Mellon's checks were being cashed.

When Hunter became pregnant, Edwards asked the Youngs to take her in so that the media in New York wouldn't be able to find her, Cheri Young said, noting that Hunter arrived later that same day.

"She walked down the hall, took a big spin in the entry way and opened her arms and said, 'I'm here,'" Cheri Young recalled. "I literally leaned back in the couch and just looked in awe."

She said she tried to keep her family functioning normally during Hunter's stay, but she and her three children were ordered out of the house whenever Edwards stopped by to visit Hunter.

Cheri Young broke down on the stand as she explained why she agreed to let her husband claim to be the father of Hunter's baby. She said she was against the idea, but she didn't want to be the one responsible for Edwards' campaign "exploding," so she went along with the scheme.

The women on the jury seemed moved by her emotion – the jury was excused for a short time so she could compose herself – but Edwards just leaned back in his chair and stared at her, glancing briefly at his watch.

Cheri Young later detailed how Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron, who was the finance chairman for Edwards' campaign, then flew the Young family and Hunter across the country in his private jet, putting them up at posh resorts in Florida and California and at his vacation home in Aspen, Colo.

"I wanted to go home, but I didn't have a choice in where we were going," she testified.

When Andrew Young told Baron that the family needed to return to North Carolina, Baron suggested that Hunter stay at another of his homes, Cheri Young said, noting that Hunter didn't like that idea.

"She was livid. She could not believe that Mr. Baron was trying to ship her off to some other state on her own. She refused to continue the journey if Andrew and I were not with her. We did everything for her," she said.

Baron's wife, Lisa Blue, a lawyer and psychologist, also advised the Youngs not to rock the boat, saying Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, posed a threat to them.

"She told me, 'Mrs. Edwards isn't well. I'm a doctor, and she's not mentally healthy,'" Cheri Young recalled Blue saying. "There's a good chance she would be a harm to you and your family."

Federal prosecutor Robert Higdon asked her if she really thought Elizabeth Edwards would physically harm her, her husband or her children.

"Yeah, we were so scared through the whole thing," Cheri Young replied. "We were the only people who knew the truth."


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  • ConservativeVoter May 2, 2012

    Andrew and Cheri had to know deep down what they were doing was wrong. Cheri knew it was wrong, that's why she specifically spoke with John Edwards about it before she did it.

    The Youngs were blindly following Edwards without questioning his orders hoping that Edwards would pay them back when he was elected President.

    Both Blind Ambition (John Edwards) and blind devotion (the youngs) is a bad thing and bad things happen when these two emotions come into play separately or together.

  • ConservativeVoter May 2, 2012

    Edwards is the one behind the scheme.

    Andrew Young was blindly following Edwards hoping to get a job in the White House when Edwards was elected.

  • thebian May 1, 2012

    "Mrs. Young can boo hoo but the bottom line is that she agreed to participate"

    Actually, I think that is a bit of a stretch. To agree connotes a degree of willingness and there is every indication that Cheri Young tried to oppose all that was being asked of her.Going up against Edwards and Andrew Young, she was coerced and steamrolled into going along, but agreed to it? Never happened.

  • Objective Scientist May 1, 2012

    Blind ambition -John Edwards. Blind devotion -Andrew Young. Note the word "BLIND" in both cases. Edwards sought high office, even the Presidency, and was so focused on obtaining it he lost his "moral compass". Young regarded Edwards as a "deity" who was destined to be President and to "ride his coattails" for personal benefit, and was so focused on doing anything possible to help Edwards accomplish his goals - he lost all perspective and his moral compass as well. Lots of "life lessons" in this story! Bottom line... John AND Elizabeth Edwards, Andrew and Cheri Young, Rielle Hunter, "Bunny" Melon, and Fred Baron - are all GUILTY of various indiscretions, if not violations of the law(s). There is AMPLE guilt to go around... although don't forget that in this trial the ONLY one charged and on trial is John Edwards. He - and he alone - will face the jury at the end with regard to guilt or innocence. He is clearly GUILTY of some serious short-comings, but does it include "law breaking"?

  • itsmyownopinion May 1, 2012

    don't forget that while elizabeth was battling cancer -- she was in total support of the cover-up. she knew all about it. course she was mad at john cheating-- but many is the account of how badly she coveted the white house.....


    While that may be true, Elizabeth Edwards is not here to defend herself. I'm personally not taking the word of known liars for that.

  • jcthai May 1, 2012

    magee43, Edwards has not been convicted of anything yet. Get a grip on yourself.....

  • beaulahjackson4 May 1, 2012

    Well at that point John and Elizabeth Edwards would have fired him and they most certainly had the power to see that he did not work in politics again and made life miserable for them. Spongbob
    I disagree with you on this. So he would have gotten fired, he would have still had his dignity intact. So he wouldn't have been able to work in politics anymore, get another job outside of politics & be able to tell your children "when it came down to doing the right thing, I DID the right thing". The Young's, obviously by their own actions, coveted the power of the White House as much as the others did. And I ask myself what kind of woman would go along with a scam that makes it look like her husband had an child from of an extramarital affair? She basically publicly humiliated herself to further (she hoped) her husband's career. I seriously doubt Young will ever work in politics again, so he's landed in the same situation you think he feared, minus the dignity & moral correctness of cours

  • magee43 May 1, 2012

    Are you aware that Edwards is still being paid by the government because he was a Senator? We are paying for all the crooks that are now or were in prison that we elected to take care of us. Write a letter or email Obama, all members in House and Senate to stop stealing from us. That would help balance a portion of the budget.

  • St Ives May 1, 2012

    Yes, ago when my ex was having an affair, he covered the fact that THE OTHER WOMAN was hanging around was because she was involved with one of his co-workers. I bought it because for some reason the mind would not allow me to believe that my husband would do such a thing. I ahted that other man for beign so taudry and inmoral, just the way Elizabeth treated Andrew YOung. Yes, for a three year period until I coaught the two of them together, so was it possible Elizabeth was not aware of the truth..I'll buy it.

  • Spongebob May 1, 2012

    "This case wouldn't even have happened if one of the Young's had the moral fiber to stand up and say "This is wrong, and No I will not go along with this". Disgusting.beaulahjackson4"

    Well at that point John and Elizabeth Edwards would have fired him and they most certainly had the power to see that he did not work in politics again and made life miserable for them. I don't believe they had a choice. They could have said no but then would have been ruined. They are ruined now but at least they took him down with them. Agree the trial is a waste of tax money. I don't think they broke any laws and while we'd like to see him locked up for being a slime it's just not illegal. Funny thing is that Reille is probably sitting back laughing at them all on her way to the bank. She was the smart one I suppose! I hope she takes the stand. Have you ever seen her interviewed? Should be entertaining.