Youngs made video to document link to Edwards' mistress

ablythe@newsobserver.comMay 1, 2012 

— Jurors at the John Edwards trial saw video on Tuesday afternoon of the house outside Chapel Hill where Edwards’ pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, lived for several months while hiding from National Enquirer reporters.

Cheri Young, the wife of Edwards’ political aide Andrew Young, made the video in September 2008 while going through the two-story house in the Governors Club, a gated community near Chapel Hill.

By then, Edwards had suspended his campaign for president, Hunter had given birth to their child, and the National Enquirer had photographed the 2008 Democratic presidential contender at a Beverly Hills hotel where his mistress and their child were waiting.

The video scans photographs of Hunter as a child, often on horseback or around horses, and shows three bedrooms, two with twin beds and one with a large bed with a white comforter.

Young zoomed in on crystals in the kitchen window, as many New-Age believers such as Hunter keep. The video showed personal photos, private documents, writings and a list of baby names that Hunter was considering.

As she went through the house, Young can be heard on a few occasions talking with her husband. Their children, who had come with their parents from soccer practice, can be heard at the start.

During her third day on the witness stand in a trial projected to last through May, Young stated that she videotaped the home and some of Hunter’s belongings to document that Hunter had lived in the home. A year earlier, she and her husband had been part of a scheme to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars through their personal account to help support and hide Edwards’ mistress.

Edwards, 58, is accused of conspiring to secretly obtain more than $900,000 from two wealthy supporters to hide his extramarital affair with Hunter and her pregnancy from the media. He has pleaded not guilty to six charges related to violations of campaign-finance laws.

Young: Video showed expenses

Cheri Young had paid the rent and bought items for the home. “That house was all purchased with money I was accountable for,” Young testified.

But defense lawyer Alan Duncan suggested the video was made to help the Youngs’ cash in on their roles in the Edwards scandal.

Duncan cross-examined Young for most of Tuesday. He asked whether she hated John Edwards and whether she might benefit financially if Edwards is convicted on charges related to violating campaign-finance laws. Young responded forcefully.

“Sir, I’m here to tell the truth about my experiences, about my life,” she said. But as her husband did under cross-examination, Young made Duncan bring forward document after document to refresh her memory of things she had said, written and purchased in connection with the Youngs’ $1.5 million Orange County house, her husband’s book, “The Politician,” and email exchanges with her name on them.

Young, 38, acknowledged that stress had been a large part of her life in recent years. She returned to the witness stand Tuesday morning after a migraine cut short her testimony Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors asked her questions for about 15 minutes Tuesday before turning the mother of three over to the defense for cross-examination.

Young had testified for nearly five hours over a period of three days about what Edwards and two wealthy supporters had said and done to cover up Edwards’ affair. But Duncan quickly pointed out that she had never actually spoken with wealthy Virginia heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, who funneled nearly $750,000 to a decorator in Western North Carolina that ended up in the Youngs’ private bank account.

Young acknowledged that she had only one meeting with the other supporter, Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer who prosecutors contend financed the cross-country odyssey that took the Youngs and Hunter to posh resorts and estates.

Overheard phone calls

And Young said she only heard Edwards on the phone twice. On Monday, she recounted a call in which she said she heard Edwards tell her husband that he had checked with campaign-finance advisers and that the scheme to get money from Mellon to the Youngs was within the law.

Young mentioned a second call that came up for the first time Tuesday morning. She said she heard Edwards crying on the phone after National Enquirer reporters had photographed him at a Beverly Hills hotel during a visit with Hunter and their child.

Also Tuesday, courtroom officials posted a video camera near the witness stand. Judge Catherine Eagles mentioned the camera before proceedings got under way Tuesday, saying they were testing it with expectations of an overflow crowd for some of the witnesses yet to come.

Hunter, who has been granted immunity by prosecutors, is expected to draw a large crowd when she testifies to a courtroom that holds only about 60 spectators.

With truckloads of media in town for a trial that has drawn national interest, there often is a line of people prevented from watching the public proceedings. On Tuesday, there was a full courtroom for the testimony of Young.

Evasive on profiting from case

After many questions on the topic, Cheri Young acknowledged for the defense that Andrew Young was drinking a lot in 2006 and 2007. She also confirmed that he took a sleep aid that has been linked to sleepwalking and other actions of which users have claimed no recall.

She was evasive on how much money she and her husband have received from his book and how much they expect from a movie that has been optioned from it. Young testified to feeling lonely, frustrated and isolated as her husband was involved in what she described repeatedly as “a cover-up.”

She said she got on board with her husband’s book project because Edwards had lied about being the father of Hunter’s child and had persuaded Andrew Young to claim paternity.

Her name was on publisher invoices, but she stated: “I did not write one line of that book. I can assure you I cannot write.”

Young said repeatedly that “she was there to tell the truth” and referred to Edwards during tense exchanges with Duncan as “your client.”

Young is expected to complete her testimony Wednesday. No date has been announced for Hunter to take the stand. She is on the witness list for both sides.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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