Local Politics

Defense questions wife about ex-Edwards aide's truthfulness

Posted May 1, 2012 1:19 p.m. EDT
Updated May 1, 2012 6:55 p.m. EDT

— A day after sobbing during her testimony and succumbing to a migraine, the wife of former John Edwards aide Andrew Young was back on the witness stand Tuesday, displaying a tougher side as she faced cross-examination.

Cheri Young evaded some defense questions and refused to give in on others as Edwards' lawyers tried again to undermine her husband's credibility with jurors.

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 spent most of last week testifying about Edwards' involvement with the secret payments, but the defense repeatedly pointed out inconsistencies in his testimony when compared with passages of his tell-all book, "The Politician," interviews he has given and his grand jury testimony three years ago.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Alan Duncan questioned Cheri Young about her husband's truthfulness, suggesting that she once told someone that Andrew Young is such an accomplished liar that even she cannot tell whether he's telling the truth or not. She said she couldn't recall ever saying that.

"Has Mr. Young ever lied to you?" Duncan asked.

"We've had arguments and disagreements," she stammered. "I don't know. I don't know."

The questioning irritated U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles at one point when Duncan continued asking Cheri Young about details of her husband's drunken driving arrest in 2006.

"She's now said twice she doesn't know about it, so move on," Eagles chided Duncan.

Duncan also attacked the Youngs' memories, saying that Cheri Young's migraines affect her recollections and that her husband drank a lot in 2006-07 and sometimes takes the sleep-aid Ambien, which makes him "loopy."

Both Andrew and Cheri Young have testified that Edwards was aware of the secret payments – Cheri Young said he even ordered them on the phone to "get the money in" – and assured them that they were legal. They also said Edwards hatched the plan to have Andrew Young claim to be the father of Hunter's baby to keep media inquiries about an extramarital affair from sinking his campaign.

Cheri Young testified Monday that catering to the needs of Edwards and his family occupied much of her husband's time for the several years that he worked for Edwards. Duncan suggested Tuesday that having "a third person in your marriage" made her angry at Edwards.

"What was frustrating to me was that I was lonely, exhausted and felt isolated, but this is the way I wanted my marriage to be," she said. "I wanted my husband to do what he believed in. I wanted Mr. Edwards to do what he believe in. But I was OK."

Andrew Young acknowledged under cross-examination last week that some of the money meant to hide Hunter was spent on a home he and his wife were building in Chapel Hill and other family expenses.

Duncan asked Cheri Young about the checks from Virginia heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon that she cashed and deposited into the family's bank account.

"We took in a lot of money to care for this issue," Cheri Young said, referring to Hunter.

She earlier told prosecutors that the family's tax returns show that they were "a conduit" for money from Mellon to Hunter.

The defense played a 13-minute video for jurors that Cheri Young took inside a home the Youngs had rented for Hunter in the gated Governor's Club development in Chatham County. She insisted that said she had to make the video to document how she and her husband had spent thousands of dollars in Mellon's money on furnishings for Hunter.

"This was proof there was a Rielle Hunter that I was taking care of," she said.

Yet, much of the video was of photos spread out on a kitchen counter that showed Hunter as a little girl riding horses and at her wedding, her driver's license and even a note where she had scribbled down possible names for her illegitimate child with Edwards.

"You have a real economic interest in how this case turns out," Duncan said, citing sales of Andrew Young's book and plans for a movie based on it.

"The focus for me is learning from my mistakes and being a better wife and mother for my children. It doesn’t matter to me anything with this case," Cheri Young said. "The only reason my husband had to write a book is because Mr. Edwards did not come forward and tell the truth. We waited from 2007 until January 2010, and he did not admit paternity until a week, maybe two weeks, before the book came out."