GREENSBORO, S.C. May 1, 2012— -- A lawyer for John Edwards bluntly asked a key witness today who gave damaging testimony against the former presidential candidate, "You are interested in getting John Edwards, right?"
It was one of a series of accusatory questions put to Cheri Young, the wife of Edwards' former top aide Andrew Young.
Cheri Young and her husband Andrew have been the first two witnesses in Edwards' trial and both have claimed that Edwards assured them that it was legal to funnel $725,000 through Cheri Young's personal account.
The money from wealthy backers was meant to help hide Rielle Hunter, Edwards' mistress who had gotten pregnant after Edwards' wife demanded that he end the affair.
Edwards was running for president during much of the 2007-08 coverup and is accused of illegally using campaign donations to keep his mistress a secret. If convicted, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison.
Edwards' attorney Alan Duncan appeared to depict the Youngs as schemers who used Edwards' scandal as a chance to enrich themselves and suggested that Cheri Young was angry at the former candidate because her husband spent so much time working for him.
"Mr. Edwards was like a third person in your marriage and you had a great deal of anger about that, didn't you?" Duncan asked Mrs. Young.
"Isn't it true that because Mr. Young did not do the things you needed him to do for your family that you blamed Mr. and Mrs. Edwards for that?" he persisted.
Cheri Young rejected both suggestions, but she had testified Monday about the escalating demands made on her family by Edwards during the scandal. When her husband was expected to claim paternity of Hunter's child to protect Edwards, she said her thought was, "The first thing in my mind was how in the world could Mr. Edwards ask one more thing of me? Of us?"
"If you can get John Edwards then that's what you want to do... You are interested in getting John Edwards, right?" Duncan asked.
Mrs. Young replied, "There is no hatred. I can't live like that."
Questions by Edwards' lawyer loudly hinted that Cheri and Andrew Young began collecting voice mails and seeking funds for the coverup as a way to make money off the scandal when they realized that Hunter was pregnant. He noted they spent a lot of the cover-up money on their house, sold a lucrative book deal and have sold movie rights to the book.
"You had already come up with the scheme by June of 2007," he said as a question, which she denied.
"Those recordings were not kept for a book," Cheri Young said. "It was because we accepted paternity for your client. And for this exact reason today. It was all a lie and here we are in court, and that's why they were saved."
The defense showed a 13 minute video that Cheri Young took of the house where Hunter lived showing furniture, photos, newspaper articles, sticky notes listing the birthdates of John Travolta, Matt Dillon and Jeff Daniels. There was a list of possible baby names, including Quinn, which Hunter later named her child.
Cheri Young testified that she took the video "to show that the money was actually spent, to prove that there really was a Rielle Hunter and there really was a house that I rented for her. This was proof that there really was a Rielle Hunter that I took care of," she said.
Earlier today, Cheri Young admitted that her husband took Ambien and drank "a lot" during the time he was helping to hide Edwards' mistress, but denied Duncan's suggestion that it caused memory problems for him.
Duncan noted that Mrs. Young was not a witness to conversations between her husband and Edwards, and indicated that what Andrew Young told her may not have been reliable.
"Have you ever told anyone that Andrew Young is such an accomplished liar that not even you as his wife can tell when he's telling the truth?" Duncan asked.
"Not that I recall," she answered.
Duncan also asked whether Andrew Young's memory was affected by alcohol and a sleep aid drug.
"Has his drinking been a concern to you?" he asked Mrs. Young.
"He drank a lot in 2006 and 2007. I don't believe after that," she said.
Cheri Young conceded that she told the FBI and prosecutors recently that her husband has taken Ambien for years, but initially rejected Duncan's question that it affects his memory.
Duncan then read from a transcript of the April 19 meeting with the FBI and prosecutors quoting it as saying, "Ambien makes her husband loopy and he couldn't remember things the next day."
"Yes, that is correct," Mrs. Young replied.
The cross examination began a day after Cheri Young tearfully told the court that was "disgusted" with Edwards' efforts to hide his pregnant mistress but decided to help anyway.
During her testimony Monday, Cheri Young testified that she agreed to go along with a scheme to funnel more than $1 million of donations through her account because Edwards assured her that it was legal.
"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."
She explained to the court, at times through tears, why she repeatedly agreed to go along with escalating demands on her and her husband to hide Hunter, even allowing her husband to claim paternity of Edwards' child with Hunter.
Cheri Young told 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."