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Witness made tape to prove affair by former Senator Edwards

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards sits in a vehicle after leaving the federal court house in Greensboro, North Carolina April 24, 2012. REUTE
Former U.S. Senator John Edwards sits in a vehicle after leaving the federal court house in Greensboro, North Carolina April 24, 2012. REUTE

By Colleen Jenkins

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - The wife of the government's star witness against former Senator John Edwards said she videotaped some of his mistress' belongings to prove that secret donor money was used to help care for the woman during Edwards' 2008 presidential run.

Cheri Young said she and her husband, Andrew Young, once a close campaign aide to Edwards, were no longer in contact with him or his mistress, Rielle Hunter, by the time of the September 2008 recording.

Edwards had failed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. But he still had not admitted paternity of Hunter's child born earlier that year, allowing the public to falsely believe that Andrew Young was the father.

Federal prosecutors accuse Edwards, 58, of manipulating Andrew Young into getting nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions from two wealthy supporters to help conceal the candidate's pregnant mistress from voters.

Over government objections about its relevancy to the campaign finance case, jurors on Tuesday watched footage depicting the North Carolina rental home once occupied by Hunter and some of the personal photos and documents she left inside.

"I videotaped the house to prove the funds were actually spent," Cheri Young said. "This was proof that there really was a Rielle Hunter that I took care of."

Young has testified that Edwards also asked him to lie about fathering Hunter's baby as part of an elaborate coverup to protect his boss' family man image and to keep Edwards' cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth from finding out about the affair.

The Youngs say they spent some of the $725,000 in payments from Edwards supporter Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to cover Hunter's $2,700 monthly rent, give her a monthly stipend, and buy her a $26,000 BMW and thousands of dollars worth of furniture.

The defense says Andrew Young alone arranged the donor money scheme and used many of the payments for his own benefit, including to help bankroll a $1.5 million home for his family.

Edwards' attorney Alan Duncan attacked Andrew Young's credibility again on Tuesday, getting his wife to admit that her husband drank heavily while serving as a top aide to Edwards.

Cheri Young confirmed she told prosecutors on the eve of Edwards' trial that her husband drank "a lot" in 2006 and 2007. She also said Andrew Young took the sleeping aid Ambien, which made him "loopy" and sometimes affected his memory.

LIMITED DIRECT KNOWLEDGE

The defense began its cross-examination of Cheri Young on Tuesday by focusing on how she had little or no direct contact with Mellon or Fred Baron, the other supporter who provided the payments at issue in the case.

Young said she often was present when her husband was having relevant phone discussions about the money but could recall only a handful of times she actually heard both sides of the conversations.

"Has Mr. Young ever lied to you?" Duncan asked.

"Um, we've had arguments and disagreements. I don't know," said Young, whose testimony was cut short on Monday after she fell ill with a migraine. She is expected back on the witness stand on Wednesday.

During her three days of testimony so far, Young recalled the frustration and anger she felt over the years as her husband spent long hours away from their family while working for Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, two-time presidential hopeful and the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004.

The tension increased when the Youngs, their three children and Hunter spent months living together around the country on Baron's dime to keep the mistress' pregnancy and resulting child shielded from the media during the 2008 race.

But Cheri Young denied on Tuesday that she resented Edwards or was seeking revenge by testifying against him. Edwards could face prison time if convicted of charges including conspiracy, accepting illegal campaign contributions and making false statements.

"You are interested in getting Mr. Edwards, aren't you?" asked Duncan.

"Sir, that is a completely false statement," Young said. "I'm here to tell the truth about my experiences … There's no hatred. I can't live like that, sir."

Before becoming one of Edwards' attorneys, Duncan represented Hunter in a civil suit against the Youngs. Hunter sued the couple for the return of personal items she claimed they took, including a videotape purported to show Edwards having sex with his mistress.

Cheri Young noted on Tuesday that Edwards did not admit he had fathered Hunter's daughter until 2010, two years after the child's birth and just before Andrew Young's tell-all book about the candidate and coverup was published.

"The only reason my husband had to write a book is because Mr. Edwards did not come forward to tell the truth," Young said.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch, Vicki Allen and Lisa Shumaker)

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