GREENSBORO, S.C. April 30, 2012— -- The sex tape made by John Edwards and his mistress Rielle Hunter may yet play a significant role in Edwards' trial as the judge cleared the way today for testimony surrounding the steamy video that was made as Edwards was preparing to run for president.
Prosecutors and Edwards' lawyers have agreed the video itself won't be shown to jurors.
But the two sides have agreed that testimony about the tape can be introduced.
Among the questions that Edwards' lawyers may seek to be answered, they said in court today while the jury was out, was whether former Edwards aide Andrew Young stole the video from Hunter, whether he tried to sell it, and whether he threatened Edwards with it when the effort to hide Hunter was unraveling.
Earlier questions about the video were put on hold until Judge Catherine Eagles made a ruling about it.
The ruling came during a day of often angry and emotional testimony from Young's wife, Cheri Young, who told the court she was disgusted by Edwards' financial scheme to hide his girlfriend's pregnancy, but agreed to help after Edwards personally assured her that it was legal.
"I wanted to hear it from Mr. Edwards myself," Cheri Young told the court today.
Mrs. Young was reluctant to take part in the plan when she was told that checks meant keep Hunter out of sight would be written out to Cheri Young's maiden name.
An impatient Edwards did call Mrs. Young, she told the court.
"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."
It was the second time jurors heard a witness testify that Edwards had insisted that the financial scheme was legal. Andrew Young has also testified that he was assured by Edwards there was nothing illegal in what they doing to hide Hunter's pregnancy.
Edwards is accused of using campaign donations to hide his mistress. If convicted, Edwards could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Cheri Young, 38, a diminutive part-time pediatric nurse, cried several times during her testimony today as she recounted the stress upon her and her family as they tried to keep Edwards' secret while the presidential candidate kept asking her and her husband for more help.
Testimony was halted and the jury sent from the room at one point while Mrs. Young struggled to compose herself, and testimony ended earlier than expected when the witness complained of a migraine headache.
Before ending her testimony for the day, Cheri Young described how the long effort came to halt when Edwards was caught by the National Enquirer visiting Hunter and their baby at the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel.
She said Edwards was crying on the phone and that he had hidden in a bathroom. Fred Baron, one of Edwards' chief backers who had helped finance the coverup, knew it was over, Mrs. Young testified.
"After Mr. Edwards was caught at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Baron was done and he knew there was no way Mr. Edwards was being elected to anything," she testified.
It was the end of a marathon effort by the Youngs to keep Hunter's pregnancy secret, Cheri Young said.
Initially it was the checks in her maiden name. Then Hunter moved in with them. The Youngs later hit the road with Hunter so the media couldn't find her. Edwards then suggested, she claims, that Andrew Young claim paternity for his baby, which prompted Mrs. Young to burst into tears on the stand.
Each time Mrs. Young gave in, including over the question of paternity.
"My husband and I had both done everything to help make this man president... If I didn't do this, take care of this, the campaign was going down," she said when confronted with the plan to funnel money through her name.
When pressed to agree to the plan for her husband to say he had an affair with Hunter and got her pregnant, Cheri Young said, "The first thing in my mind was how in the world could Mr. Edwards ask one more thing of me? Of us?"
She testified that she was furious at her husband, that she "screamed at him, cursed at him."
But in the end, Cheri Young explained to 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."
Mrs. Young described living with Edwards' mistress as increasingly stressful. At first she was "shaking in her boots" when she went to cash the checks meant for Hunter's expenses. Then came the abrupt announcement that Hunter was coming to live with them.
"She walked into the hallway. She took a spin and opened her arms out wide and said, 'I'm here.' I literally fell into the couch and I was just in awe. There was no hello," Cheri Young said.
Hunter treated them as servants, she said. "She told us what she wanted and we did it," Cheri Young said.
When the National Enquirer tracked Hunter to their home, the Youngs had a fright. Their children came downstairs in their pajamas one evening for a snack and they saw a man peering into their window.
"I screamed, my children screamed. And we called 911," she testified.
They hit the road to keep Hunter unavailable to the press and her demands increased to the point where she resisted allowing the Youngs to return home so they could put their kids in school or see their kids for Christmas.
Fred Baron's wife, Lisa Blue, warned them at one meeting that Edwards' wife Elizabeth, who was suffering from terminal cancer, "is not well mentally... There's a very good chance she would do harm to you or your family," Cheri Hunter testified.
And after Hunter gave birth, the living arrangement got even worse, she said.
"Things grew pretty tense pretty quickly," she told the court. "We were not allowed around the baby, we couldn't touch the baby. The (Youngs') kids weren't allowed to be close enough where they could breath on the baby."
Mrs. Young can expect a tough grilling during cross examination. Her husband was questioned by two days by Edwards' lead attorney Abbe Lowell.
She can expect t be asked why about $1 million of the alleged hush money ended up in her family's pockets and helped bankroll the construction of their luxurious North Carolina home.
In bitterly contested testimony last week, Andrew Young said he was told that hiding Rielle Hunter was the most important job in the campaign, even after Edwards dropped out of the presidential race because he was angling for a top job, possibly vice president or attorney general.
Edwards' defense team laced into Young claiming that he used the scandal to enrich himself. They also claimed that Edwards used the money to hide Hunter from his wife, not from the government or the public.