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Andrew Young Wife Takes Stand, Says He Drank Heavily, Took Ambien As John Edwards Campaign Aide

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* Former aide's wife spends three days on witness stand

* Denied that she resented Edwards

By Colleen Jenkins

GREENSBORO, N.C., May 1 (Reuters) - A lawyer for former U.S. Senator John Edwards attacked the credibility of the government's star witness on Tuesday, getting Andrew Young's wife to admit that her husband drank heavily when served as a top campaign aide to Edwards.

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

Prosecutors accuse Edwards, 58, of manipulating Andrew Young into getting nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to help conceal the candidate's pregnant mistress from the public.

Young has testified that Edwards asked him to falsely claim paternity of the woman's child as part of an elaborate cover-up to protect his married boss' image and to keep Edwards' cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth from finding out about the affair.

The defense has portrayed Andrew Young as the mastermind behind the secret payments from two wealthy donors, arguing he used much of the money for his own benefit and as a result is not a trustworthy witness.

The defense began its cross-examination of Cheri Young on Tuesday by focusing on how she had little or no direct contact with the supporters who provided the payments, Fred Baron and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.

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?" defense attorney Alan 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.


FRUSTRATION, ANGER

During her three days on the witness stand, Cheri Young has testified about the frustration and anger she felt over the years as her husband spent long hours away from their family while working for Edwards, a two-time presidential hopeful and the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004.

The tension increased when the Youngs spent months traveling around the country and living with Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, to keep her pregnancy and the 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 in his federal campaign finance trial. 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 cover-up 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 and Vicki Allen)

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