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Testimony focuses on Elizabeth Edwards’ pain

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012 10:08 a.m. CDT

GREENSBORO, N.C. (MCT) — Elizabeth Edwards was worried in the summer of 2007 that her husband was continuing to have an extramarital affair after he had told her it was over.

Her concerns were fueled when she found a cell phone among her husband’s things and suspected he was using it to contact the other woman.

These and other inside views of the late Elizabeth Edwards emerged Wednesday during testimony by Christina Reynolds, a former aide for John Edwards, who took the stand at the trial of the 2008 Democratic presidential contender.

Reynolds recounted being called to the Edwards’ Orange County home in the summer of 2007 by an emotional Elizabeth Edwards. The two went into a bedroom, and the troubled wife confided in Reynolds, a woman who had worked for Edwards off and on since his 1998 senate run. The women had bonded over their shared experience as growing up with parents in the military.

John Edwards had told his wife about his affair in late 2006, Reynolds said. “He told her it was over and she believed it was still going on.”

Reynolds tried to console her friend, a woman who was also battling cancer. She left the home worried, not so much about what revelation of an affair would do to Edwards’ political campaign, but more about what it would do to the couple’s three children.

What Reynolds and few others were aware of at that time was that another child would be in the picture — the daughter that John Edwards fathered with his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

On the eighth day of testimony in the trial of Edwards much has been said about his extramarital affair with Hunter, her pregnancy and the birth of their child, but little has been said so far about the campaign finance laws the former presidential candidate is accused of violating.

Prosecutors contend Edwards conspired to obtain more than $900,000 to hide his pregnant mistress from the media in an attempt to keep his presidential campaign alive.

Defense lawyers, though, contend he was trying to hide Hunter and the pregnancy from his wife, and testimony on Wednesday bolstered their claims that Elizabeth Edwards was extremely upset about the affair.

In the fall of 2007, after the National Enquirer published an article about the affair, Elizabeth Edwards, according to the testimony of Reynolds and Matthew Nelson, another staffer who was on the stand Wednesday, became extremely enraged.

She pawed at her husband in a car ride to Raleigh-Durham airport while others were present, asking him if that’s what he and his mistress did in New York.

John Edwards, according to testimony, got out of the car before the couple got to the airport, got in a car that had been trailing them with other staffers and sent someone to take his seat by his wife.

At the airport, an emotional Elizabeth Edwards crumbled to the ground in the parking lot. Reynolds and Hargrove McElroy, a longtime friend, rushed to the distraught woman’s side, helped her up, got her into a restroom and tried to calm her down.

Elizabeth Edwards, Reynolds said, became “understandably upset” again. Elizabeth Edwards, who had been through extensive treatments for breast cancer, took off her bra, exposed her chest and stormed out in front of her husband and said: “You don’t see me any more,” Reynolds recalled.

The Edwards’ eldest child, Cate Edwards, a 30-year-old lawyer who has sat stoically through her father’s trial, became visibly upset during a break in Reynolds’ testimony.

Her father leaned over and mentioned to her during the break when the jury was out of the room that he did not know what was coming next.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell had just objected to what prosecutor David Harbach was asking Reynolds. Judge Catherine Eagles sent the jury out of the courtroom for a brief break.

Cate Edwards said something inaudible to her father, left the courtroom in tears as her father quietly called after her, “Cate, Cate.”

Cate Edwards, who now runs her mother’s foundation from Washington, D.C., where she and her husband live, returned to the courtroom a short time later, composed.

She sat behind her father as Reynolds recounted many scenes with her mother, including being in the home during her final days.

Most of the testimony Wednesday was from staffers who either worked on the Edwards 2008 presidential campaign or worked as aides before the campaign was officially under way.

Josh Brumberger, an aide who traveled with John Edwards during 2005 and 2006, said he cautioned his boss on more than one occasion about Hunter.

Brumberger, now 33, brought moments of levity and sanity to a trial that over the past week and a half has pulled back a curtain on a dark and tawdry presidential run.

Brumberger recounted meeting Hunter in the bar of the Regency hotel in New York. She first came up to the table and asked Edwards whether he was “the” Edwards she had seen on TV. She later came to Brumberger after Edwards left to eat with supporters at a nearby restaurant and asked more about the man with whom she would have an affair and a child.

Brumberger said his next sighting of Hunter was a little later when she was videotaping Edwards’ events. He said he recognized her, but was unable to initially to recall that it was from the New York hotel. Still he was troubled by her unwillingness “to fade into the background” like staff typically would do so he did a Google search that turned up her personal Web site.

Brumberger did not like what he found.

“Specifically, there was a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll and a lot of astrology,” Brumberger said. “I’m pretty certain I told Mr. Edwards that Ms. Hunter looked a little nutty. I believe he agreed.”

Brumberger said he raised concerns about Hunter with Edwards after seeing her early one morning walk off a hotel elevator near Edwards’ room wearing “what I would consider overnight apparel.” He said, “I was specifically worried about where (Edwards) head was at the time.”

Brumberger eventually split with Edwards after Edwards berated him for taking his concerns about Hunter to others.

Edwards, 58, smiled and laughed on occasion as Brumberger’s crisp and occasionally amusing testimony changed the tone in a courtroom where the atmosphere had been tense, combative and sometimes tearful during the testimony of the trial’s first two witnesses. Those witnesses, Edwards’ former aide Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri Young, said the former Democratic hopeful had conspired to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide Hunter.

Brumberger and Reynolds began a series of staffers and aides that prosecutors are expected to call to the witness stand this week.

It has not been announced if or when Hunter will take the stand.

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