Federal Prosecutors Drop Case Against John Edwards
John Edwards speaks after the verdict, with his daughter Cate by his side. (KTLA-TV / May 31, 2012)
The Justice Department had accused Edwards of using nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to keep his pregnant mistress under wraps as he mounted a second presidential bid in 2008. But after more than 50 hours of deliberation, a North Carolina jury acquitted him on one of the six counts against him and deadlocked on the other five.
Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, said prosecutors respect the judgment of the jury and would not bring the case to trial again.
"We knew that this case -- like all campaign finance cases -- would be challenging," Breuer said in a written statement on the decision. "But it is our duty to bring hard cases when we believe that the facts and the law support charging a candidate for high office with a crime."
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Edwards' lawyers said in a statement, "We are confident that the outcome of any new trial would have been the same."
"While John has repeatedly admitted to his sins, he has also consistently asserted, as we demonstrated at the trial, that he did not violate any campaign law nor even imagined that any campaign laws could apply," they said.
Edwards, 61, won a U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina in 1998. He ran for president in 2004, when he ended up as the Democrats' nominee for vice president, and again in 2008, when he dropped out of the reace after a poor showing in the early primaries.
In August 2008, he admitted to an affair with onetime campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, but denied paternity of the daughter she had given birth to six months earlier. He eventually acknowledged paternity, and after the May 31 mistrial, he talked about "my precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you can ever imagine."
Prosecutors argued that Edwards took $925,000 from two high-powered donors to pay for Hunter's living and medical expenses, travel and other costs to keep her out of sight while he sought the presidency -- contributions that amounted to illegal, undisclosed campaign donations. Former Edwards aide Andrew Young testified that he allowed Hunter to move in with him and his wife at Edwards' request after newspapers began looking into a possible affair within the Edwards campaign.
Edwards' lawyers argued he was guilty of being a bad husband to his wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in 2010, but had committed no crime. They also told jurors that Young, the government's star witness, used the contributions for his own gain.
"As we stated in our motions and arguments," his lawyers said Wednesday. "It should be addressed, if at all, by the Federal Election Commission, which our evidence showed seems to have agreed with our views on the law."