A former adviser to John Edwards recounted Wednesday how the former presidential candidate's now-deceased wife indignantly confronted her husband, baring her chest in front of staff members the day after a tabloid reported that he was cheating on her.
During a session that saw Edwards' adult daughter flee the courtroom in tears, Christina Reynolds described how a very upset Elizabeth Edwards stormed away from her husband, then collapsed in a ball on the pavement outside a private airplane hangar. Reynolds and another woman guided the anguished wife into a nearby ladies room to compose herself, but she soon returned to the private hangar to again confront her husband.
In front of several staff members, the woman who had endured grueling treatments for breast cancer took off her shirt and bra, exposing her chest.
" 'You don't see me anymore,' " Reynolds quoted Elizabeth Edwards as screaming. "He didn't have much of a reaction."
As staffers scrambled to cover up Edwards' wife and huddle her into a car, Reynolds heard the Democratic candidate use a cellphone to call his wife's doctor to ask for help.
Edwards then boarded a waiting jet and took off for a South Carolina appearance, Reynolds said. She testified that Elizabeth Edwards had known about her husband's affair with Rielle Hunter before the National Enquirer made it public in October 2007. Hers was the most stirring testimony of the day at Edwards' trial on corruption charges, as prosecutors worked to build a timeline of the affair and efforts to cover it up.
Shortly before Reynolds began her account of what happened that day at the Raleigh airport, Edwards turned to his daughter Cate, who has been seated in the front row for much of her father's trial.
"I don't know what's coming," Edwards was heard saying. "Do you want to leave?"
She responded to him in a whisper, grabbed her purse and walked out, wiping away tears. Edwards was heard saying, "Cate, Cate" as she left. She returned to court about a half hour later, after a brief recess.
Shortly before her testimony about the airport argument, Reynolds recounted that Elizabeth Edwards asked her over to the couple's gated estate near Chapel Hill in the summer of 2007 to tell her that her husband had confessed to an affair the prior year. "I was very surprised by what she told me and I didn't want it to ever become public so the kids wouldn't have to know about it," the former aide said.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign-finance violations. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted on all counts. At issue are payments from wealthy donors used to help keep his pregnant mistress out of public view.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard from another aide who discussed the night the candidate met his mistress.
Josh Brumberger, now 33, was having drinks with Edwards in the bar of an upscale New York hotel in February 2006 when they were first approached by Hunter. He frequently traveled with Edwards and said it was not unusual for strange women to come up to him. The former aide said he politely helped extricate the candidate from the conversation. Sometime later, Brumberger saw Edwards returning alone from dinner and surrounded by a group of women that included Hunter. He ran outside to once again politely get his boss out of the conversation. "My normal bag of tricks included, 'Got a big day tomorrow, got to rest,' " he recalled.