John Edwards trial: Andrew Young’s wife grilled by defense, admits husband drank heavily, took Ambien

Dylan Stableford
The Ticket

A day after breaking down and falling ill on the witness stand, Cheri Young, the wife of John Edwards' former aide Andrew Young, was grilled by the defense at Edwards' federal corruption trial in North Carolina, admitting that her husband drank "a lot" and took Ambien while trying to hide Rielle Hunter, the former presidential candidate's mistress.

In her third day of testimony, Young said that the stress of keeping Edwards' mistress a secret during the 2008 campaign contributed to her husband's heavy drinking, but denied the alcohol and sleep aids affected his memory.

"He drank a lot in 2006 and 2007," Cheri Young told the court during cross-examination. "I don't believe after that."

Lawyers for Edwards got Cheri Young to admit she told the FBI that Ambien makes her husband "loopy" and unable to "remember things the next day." The defense also argued that migraines—like the one that cut her testimony short on Monday—affected her own memory.

Earlier, lawyers for Edwards tried to paint Andrew Young, the prosecution's star witness, as a liar.

"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?" defense attorney Alan Duncan asked Cheri.

"Not that I recall," she responded.

"Did Mr. Young ever lie to you?" Duncan asked.

"We have arguments and disagreements, but I don't know," she replied.

Young is expected back on the witness stand on Wednesday.

On Monday, she broke down in tears when she was asked why she went along with the plan—initiated by Edwards—to put Hunter up in the couple's Chapel Hill home in an effort to keep her from public view. The jury was dismissed to allow Young time to compose herself.

"I felt like everything had been dumped in my lap," Young said after the jury returned. "Everybody was on board but me. ... I didn't want the campaign to explode and for it to be my fault. I decided to live with a lie."

Edwards, she said, suggested that Andrew Young say Hunter was carrying his baby. "'Nobody cares about two staffers having an affair,'" Cheri Young recalled Edwards telling the couple during a conference call prior to the 2008 Iowa caucuses.

"I cannot tell you how disgusted I was," Young said. "Why me? This was my husband's fight. Now I had to fix it."

"My husband and I had both done everything to help make this man president," she continued. "If I didn't do this, take care of this, the campaign was going down."

Andrew Young, the prosecution's star witness, testified for four days last week, describing in elaborate detail how he was instructed to hide Edwards' affair with Hunter—and how they handled alleged donations from Mellon and Texas lawyer Fred Baron to do so.

During her testimony Monday, Young fell ill with a migraine, and was sent home.

Edwards faces six criminal counts—including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Hunter. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

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