NEW: Cheri Young says John Edwards sharply told her to "get the money in"
NEW: Wife of Edwards aide, Young says she flew around U.S. with the politician's mistress
NEW: She says she helped pay Rielle Hunter's expenses after Edwards reassured her
Federal prosecutors say Edwards used campaign donations to hide his affair
John Edwards sternly reassured the wife of his then-campaign aide that using money from his wealthy benefactor to pay his mistress’s expenses was legal, she testified Monday.
“Get the money in,” said Edwards, who was then running for president, Cheri Young recalled Monday.
Prosecutors say those donations, which weren’t reported to federal authorities, were illegal and represent a chief reason Edwards is being tried on six felony counts. Also charged with conspiracy and making false statements, he could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Young testified Monday that she felt “disgusted” after being asked to endorse and deposit checks from 101-year-old heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon intended to pay Hunter’s expenses.
Edwards, who was then married, eventually admitted having carried on an affair with Hunter, whom his campaign had hired as a videographer, and fathering her child.
Demanding that Edwards himself tell her such contributions were above board, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina assured her that they were legal, based on his conversations with campaign lawyers, Young testified.
She added that she wrote thousands of dollars worth of checks to pay Hunter’s expenses. Prosecutors held up copies of several such checks in court Monday, including at least $8,000 for Hunter’s California-based spiritual adviser.
Young also described Hunter’s whirlwind travels to escape the media on private planes around the holidays in 2007 and 2008.
That included stops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Aspen, Colorado; and San Diego. Upon arriving at the Young’s house in North Carolina, Young said, “Ms. Hunter took a spin in the entryway and announced, ‘I’m here.’ “
Cheri Young sobbed on the stand Monday after explaining her reaction to being told that Edwards wanted her husband to claim that he was the father of Hunter’s child.
“The first thing in my mind was how in the world Mr. Edwards could ask one more thing of us,” Young said of her thoughts at the time.
Despite her reservations, Young said she participated in a December 2007 conference call with her husband, Edwards and the then-pregnant Hunter.
“Mr. Edwards was trying to get everyone on board,” Young testified. “(He talked) over and over about the campaign.”
She said Edwards also said that he didn’t want his wife, Elizabeth, who had been diagnosed with cancer, to find out about the affair and child. Elizabeth Edwards died of breast cancer in December 2010.
He is accused of concealing $725,000 in contributions from Mellon and more than $200,000 from Texas lawyer Baron, who has since died, from the public and from the Federal Election Commission by filing false and misleading campaign disclosure reports.
Edwards’ attorneys have argued that Andrew Young was involved in a ruse to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors for his personal use.
The former aide admitted during questioning by Edwards’ attorney that he used campaign donations for his own benefit, including to fund construction of a home that included a pool and a theater.
Andrew Young is the author of the tell-all book “The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down.” Young was hammered last week on the witness stand about his own motives and asked whether he made up stories about how Edwards concealed contributions from campaign donors.
He testified that he wrote the book for two reasons: He needed the money, and he believed Edwards did not live up to a promise to tell the truth.
One much-discussed byproduct of Hunter and Edwards’ relationship – a purported sex tape – also came up in court Monday.
The tape will not be played during Edwards’ trial, though it may be a topic of discussion.
Defense attorney Abbe Lowell indicated Monday that he is considering recalling Andrew Young to the stand to ask him whether he had the tape on August 18, 2008, whether he stole the tape, whether he considered selling the tape and whether he used the tape’s existence to help sell his book.