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John Edwards admits fault after jury mistrial
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A jury's refusal to convict John Edwards was less a Thursday's "As noted by nearly Several jurors said "We tried Edwards faced six felony charges To A former trial lawyer, Edwards was When it was "This Presented Kieran "They Steve But, he predicted, Edwards won't fare as well in the court of public opinion. "Regardless From Appointed by President George W. The final decision to prosecute Edwards The case against An aide once so loyal he falsely Before "The
redemption of the former White House hopeful than a rejection of the
Justice Department's boldest attempt to make an example of someone in
the name of enforcing campaign finance laws.
verdict of not guilty on one count and a mistrial on five others bore
out criticism from the earliest stages of the case that it was a reach,
that prosecutors went after the ex-U.S. senator without the kind of
evidence that justified the charges that he masterminded a scheme to use
campaign donations to hide his pregnant mistress from the public and
his terminally ill wife.
every campaign finance lawyer who considered the matter, this was a
lousy case," said Melanie Sloan, executive director for the campaign
finance watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington. "All the salacious details prosecutors offered up to prove
that Edwards is, indeed, despicable, were not enough to persuade the
jury to convict him."
there just wasn't enough evidence. On network talk shows Friday, even
jurors who thought Edwards was guilty on at least some counts said the
prosecution wasn't able to prove it.
to put our feelings aside and what we were doing was just looking at
the facts to come up with a verdict," juror Cindy Aquaro said on NBC's
involving nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy political donors
that was used to help hide the Democrat's mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he
sought the White House in 2008. He faced a maximum sentence of up to 30
years in prison if convicted on all counts.
convict Edwards, prosecutors needed to show not only that the candidate
knew about the secret payments, which he denied, but that he knew he
was violating federal law by accepting them. But the government was
unable to produce any witness who said Edwards knowingly violated the
law. Even former Edwards aide Andrew Young testified that Edwards told
him he had consulted campaign finance lawyers who assured him the money
so unimpressed with the testimony against him that when the government
rested, he turned to a member of his defense team and asked
dismissively, "That's their case?"
their turn, his lawyers presented just two days of evidence. Edwards
elected not to take the stand in his own defense.
is a case that should define the difference between a wrong and a crime
... between a sin and a felony," Edwards' lead attorney Abbe Lowell
told the jury during closing arguments. "John Edwards has confessed his
sins. He will serve a life sentence for those."
with no damning evidence and no obvious victim beyond the public's
trust, jurors couldn't see their way to convicting the charismatic
ex-candidate. Prosecutors are unlikely to retry the case, a law
enforcement official told The Associated Press on the condition of
anonymity because the decision will undergo review in the coming days.
Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor and Raleigh defense attorney who
attended the trial, said he thought the prosecutors took their best shot
with what was ultimately a very weak case.
got their best witnesses, their best evidence and the judge ruled in
their favor on all major evidentiary issues," Shanahan said. "In the
end, the jury just didn't believe them."
Friedland, another former federal prosecutor who watched the case from
inside the courtroom, said the jury's verdict was not surprising,
considering the government had no smoking gun to prove Edwards guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt.
of the decision, he still is Exhibit A for how we do not want our
leaders to behave," said Friedland, now a professor at Elon University
School of Law. "This is a huge victory for him, and big burden off his
shoulders, but a hollow one given his astounding fall from grace."
the start, lawyers for Edwards painted the prosecution as politically
motivated. The investigation was originally spearheaded by George
Holding, the then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North
Bush, Holding made a name for himself with criminal probes of high
profile Democrats, including the state's former governor. When President
Barack Obama came into office, Holding managed to forestall being
replaced by a Democrat for years while the Edwards investigation was
ongoing. He eventually resigned in 2011 as Edwards was indicted and soon
announced his candidacy for Congress, winning in the GOP primary last
was made by the Obama administration and the Justice Department's
Public Integrity Section. Once highly admired, the section's reputation
suffered after a corruption conviction against former U.S. Sen. Ted
Stevens of Alaska was overturned in 2009 after it was found prosecutors
knowingly concealed exculpatory evidence and allowed false testimony to
be presented at trial.
Edwards was tried by three prosecutors sent down from Washington and one
prosecutor from Raleigh who had served as Holding's second-in-command.
They presented 14 days of testimony and evidence, with Young their star
claimed paternity of Edwards' baby and helped hide his mistress from the
media for nearly a year, Young turned against his former boss and
testified for the prosecution under an immunity agreement. Though the
government's case recounted how Edwards repeatedly lied about his affair
to both the American people and his cancer-stricken wife, the defense
countered by shredding Young's credibility on the witness stand and
using financial records to show the former aide and his wife kept most
of the money at issue in the case, funneling it into the construction of
the couple's $1.6 million dream home.
Edwards' prosecution, no federal candidate had been tried over payments
from a third party that flowed to a mistress. Sloan said the lack of
resolution in the case will likely leave candidates and regulators
confused about what is and is not a legitimate campaign expense.
U.S. criminal justice system requires fair notice of what is and is not
against the law," Sloan said. "Sadly, the Justice Department seems to
have forgotten this fundamental American precept. Luckily, the jury
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A jury's refusal to convict John Edwards was less a
"As noted by nearly
Several jurors said
Edwards faced six felony charges
A former trial lawyer, Edwards was
When it was
But, he predicted, Edwards won't fare as well in the court of public opinion.
Appointed by President George W.
The final decision to prosecute Edwards
The case against
An aide once so loyal he falsely
Friday, June 1 2012, 11:05 AM EDT
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