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Cheri Young emotionally describes stress of covering up John Edwards' affair

Cheri Young, the wife of the government's star witness in the John Edwards corruption trial, will return to the stand Tuesday. On Monday, Young talked about how far her family had gone to cover up Edwards' extramarital affair. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The wife of the star prosecution witness broke down on the stand Monday morning while recounting how former Sen. John Edwards wanted her husband to falsely claim paternity for the child of his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Cheri Young testified that when her husband, former Edwards aide Andrew Young, told her about Edwards' request, her first thought was "how in the world could Mr. Edwards ask one more thing of me of us?"

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Analysis by Hampton Dellinger

"Of course, I said absolutely not," Young testified, saying she screamed and cursed at her husband.


Cheri Young took the witness stand after her husband spent last week describing how nearly $1 million in money from supporters of Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign was funneled to support Hunter and the Youngs after rumors of the Edwards-Hunter affair surfaced. She is also key to the prosecution's campaign finance case because she was asked to countersign checks from one of the donors, which were routed through her decorator.

 

 

Young recounted a four-way call among her, her husband, Hunter and Edwards in which "Mr. Edwards was trying to get everyone on board."

"'This is it; this is our time; we're going great; we've gotten this far,'" Young quoted Edwards as having said. She said she "didn't want the responsibility of knowing that because I didn't go along with this ... that the campaign would explode and it would be my fault."

"So I ultimately agreed to go along with the lie," she said, sobbing.

Young said Edwards seemed determined that his own wife, Elizabeth — who later died of cancer — must not learn about the affair with Hunter, a videographer for the presidential campaign.

"He didn't want her to find out at that point because she was going to die soon," Young said.

Before leaving court early because of a migraine headache, Young made it clear that she resented Edwards and Hunter, who moved in with the Youngs after The National Enquirer began trying to photograph her at her New Jersey home. 

"She took a big spin and said, 'I'm here!'" said Young, who said it was intimidating to have "a presidential candidate's pregnant mistress coming to my house that night, last minute."

Some of the donors' money helped pay for Hunter's "spiritual adviser," Young testified, adding that Hunter once called the adviser when the wrong sauce arrived on her Reuben sandwich.

On another occasion, she said, Hunter rejected a hotel room because it didn't have "good energy."

After the Enquirer published pictures of Hunter and confronted Edwards about the affair, Young said, her immediate reaction was "Oh, my God. ... Well, i wanted to say 'I told you so,' but I didn't."

Steven Friedland, a professor at the Elon University School of Law in Elon, N.C., said Young succeeded in "personalizing this whole situation for the Youngs and showing that it's not really about the Youngs."

Instead, Friedland said, she showed that "it was about John Edwards" and how the Youngs "sacrificed for him and his presidential aspirations." 

Michael Austin and Stacey Klein of NBC News and M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com contributed to this report. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

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