We're in the second week of John Edwards' trial, in which he faces up to 30 years in jail and a $1.5 million fine for allegedly violating federal campaign finance laws. There are some interesting updates, most notably from the testimony of Cheri Young, the wife of Edwards' formerly most devoted aide and bromance partner, who now appears to despise him utterly.
Young took the stand to testify Monday that Edwards had told her it was legal to take money from the late Fred Baron and heiress Bunny Mellon: "I heard Mr. John Edwards tell me on the phone that he checked with the campaign lawyers and that this was legal," said Young, according to The Associated Press' Michael Biesecker. Young said she'd had doubts, but "did it anyway to help out the campaign"—and keep her husband, Andrew, in a job. Edwards also made her feel like this "was for the good of the country," she said.
Last week I wondered about Cheri Young as one of the women of the Edwards trial, all of them characterized rather stereotypically as either loyal wives (despite pretty awful doings on the part of their husbands); as frail, confused women (like Mellon); or, conversely, as fitting into the perceived Rielle Hunter model—loose woman; "crazy slut," as Edwards put it. How would Young fit in, given that she might be the only of those women to testify? Well, she emerges a bit from the standard role of the good little wife, promoting her own agenda, at least a little bit, even if she wept while doing so. While she said she did take the money, putting it into an account for Edwards (and Hunter) controlled by her husband and herself, she says she "insisted on speaking" to Edwards about it and that she had reservations, was "disgusted" but was afraid her husband would lose his job if the public found out about Edwards' affair with Hunter. Perhaps, in retrospect, that would have been a better turn than this, even if the Youngs do have immunity for their testimony. We get a little vinegar from Cheri, though—less terrified, which had been the Young family line, and more pissed off, even between the tears: She seems to blame her husband, whom she says was "mesmerized" by Edwards (she, it would seem, was significantly less so, and ultimately disillusioned by Washington in general). Via The New York Times' Lizette Alvarez, she told the court:
"I was not happy with it,” Mrs. Young, 38, a pediatric nurse testified Friday. “It was maddening to me. Andrew had no responsibilities at home.”
And from the AP:
"I cannot tell you how disgusted I was. Why me? This was my husband's fight. ... Now I had to fix it," she said.
As for why she went along with all of the lies, including her husband's claim that he was the father of Hunter's child, the AP reports:
"I felt like everything had been dumped in my lap," she said. "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."
Hardly a model of female empowerment. On Friday, Young testified for less than 30 minutes, "recalling how her husband was so devoted to John and Elizabeth Edwards that he was willing to do 'anything and everything' for the Edwards family. It caused strain in the Youngs' marriage, she said, because the things he did for the Edwards family, he rarely did for his own," reports James Hill of ABC News. Meanwhile, Edwards' attorneys say the Youngs used the money to build their dream house, a statement that we prefer to read ironically, because it's clear from everything else that there was no dream house here.