Local Politics

Feds won't retry Edwards on campaign finance charges

Posted June 13, 2012

John Edwards makes a brief statement outside the Greensboro federal courthouse on May 31, 2012, after a jury acquitted him on one camapign finance fraud charge and a mistrial was declared on five other charges against him

— Federal prosecutors on Wednesday ended their pursuit of criminal charges in connection with John Edwards' efforts to hide his pregnant mistress during his 2008 presidential campaign.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles signed an order submitted by prosecutors dismissing five charges against Edwards. An eight-man, four-woman jury acquitted the former U.S. senator of a sixth charge.

“We knew that this case – like all campaign finance cases – would be challenging, 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," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement. "Last month, the government put forward its best case against Mr. Edwards. ... The jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on five of the six counts of the indictment, however, and we respect their judgment. In the interest of justice, we have decided not to retry Mr. Edwards on those counts.”

Edwards defense team has asked Eagles for an outright acquittal on all counts.

"As we stated in our motions and arguments in court, the novel theory of campaign law violations charged by the Justice Department is not a crime. It should be addressed, if at all, by the Federal Election Commission," defense attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement.

"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," Lowell said. "We are confident that the outcome of any new trial would have been the same. We are very glad that, after living under this cloud for over three years, John and his family can have their lives back and enjoy the peace they deserve."

Feds won't retry Edwards on campaign finance charges

Former U.S. Attorney George Holding, who launched the investigation into Edwards' campaign finances, fended off criticism that the government overreached in the case.

"If I'd been in the business of avoiding hard cases, we never would have prosecuted any of the political corruption cases," said Holding, now a Republican candidate for Congress. "It was a difficult case. The prosecutors in the courtroom did an excellent job. The federal agents from the FBI and the IRS did an excellent job. But, at the end of the job, it's the jury's call."

Edwards couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, but longtime friend David Kirby echoed Lowell in saying that the decision to end the case allows Edwards to finally move on.

"I'm very happy that the government has decided not to prosecute any further. I hope this ends a very difficult chapter in his life," said Kirby, a law school classmate of Edwards and his late wife, Elizabeth, and Edwards' former law partner.

"If Elizabeth was here, I'm certain she would say, 'Thank God this is over for Cate, Emma Claire and Jack,'" Elizabeth Edwards' close friend David "Mudcat" Saunders said, referring to her three children.

A federal grand jury indicted Edwards a little over a year ago on charges that he used nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy donors – Virginia heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron – to keep his mistress, Rielle Hunter, quiet and away from the media in the run-up to the 2008 primaries.

In five days of testimony during the month-long trial, former aide Andrew Young detailed schemes in which Mellon funneled money through a Charlotte interior decorator to him and his wife to pay for Hunter's expenses and in which Baron paid for charter planes and resort accommodations as Hunter and the Young family hopscotched across the country to evade tabloid newspaper reporters.

Young admitted under cross-examination, however, that he and his wife spent much of the money from Mellon and Baron on a house they were building near Chapel Hill and other personal expenses.

Young declined to comment Wednesday.

Bryan Huffman, the interior decorator, said he was disappointed in the government's decision.

"Mrs. Mellon gave that money for him to be president. She knew nothing of any mistress or illegitimate child," Huffman said. "(Edwards) dragged her sterling reputation through the mud.

"At the end of the day, all a person has is (his or her) good name, and he certainly doesn't have that."

A former chairman of the Federal Elections Commission also testified that the agency has never considered regulations for third-party payments to a candidate's mistress. An audit of Edwards' 2008 campaign finance reports was closed in April without any mention of the money from Mellon or Baron.

"It's a good thing it's over. I think a lot of money has been wasted," said Barbara Allen, former chairwoman of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

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  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Jun 14, 2012

    Good decision. It would have been another waste of the tax payers money any way. May John learn from all of this and stay away from politics. We in NC no longer need him to represent us. He is done!

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Jun 14, 2012

    'Pretty boy got off again. . . .' aamblb

    Sounds like someone has a crush on him.

  • beaulahjackson4 Jun 14, 2012

    Objective Scientist
    June 14, 2012 1:11 p.m
    Sadly I suppose that you are right. I agree about Elizabeth, but think it a little unfair to expect her to fight for what was right at that point, as she probably didn't have much fight left in her. Youngs wife, in my opinion was as much at fault as well, if not more. I would just have preferred that the campaign laws to be more defined and less ambiguous because it is needed. Not put Edwards on trial when others seem to be more protected than they should be. I think that loop holes are put into laws "just in case" and they are often taken full advantage of. I am very much a lover of law, and the letter of the law. I believe it was Churchill that said "Democracy is the worst possible form of government ever...except for all others" and that sums it up for me. I don't think it's flexible, and it is what it is, and it's not the greatest, but there are far worse.

  • mac240 Jun 14, 2012

    I said this a long time ago; Why are they wasting taxpayer's money with this!

  • Objective Scientist Jun 14, 2012

    beaulahjackson4 - re: your comments of June 14, 2012 12:44 pm

    Your points are valid and good. Nevertheless, it has been my observation that there are, for me, an unbelievable number of folk out there who do not follow "politics", current events, etc. the way you and I likely do - and until this trial were unaware of just "how bad" Edwards was/is. The trial "informed" that group. For some - knowledge of his deficiencies were a "given", for many it was not. Also... "cheated on his dying wife" - absolutely true, however Elizabeth was aware and went along with the deceit of the electorate. Regarding the campaign law issue... while I FIRMLY believe it MUST be rewritten and more specificity and "teeth" put into it... that would be a case of politicians limiting themselves and specifying things that could come back to bite themselves, I don't hold much hope it will happen unless the electorate truly applies the pressure to do so. But again, for the "uninformed" the trial put that out there!

  • dwntwnboy Jun 14, 2012

    "Yep, its beneficial to live in Edwards’ America"- true, but it's also the same "America" that the Bush's, Clintons, Kennedys and anyone with enough money lives in- it's not just him, it's ANYONE with enough "000"s in their bank account.

  • dwntwnboy Jun 14, 2012

    "I can't tell you one good thing John Edwards has done for North Carolina or for America"- can say the same about a LOT of elected officials past and present from BOTH parties!!

  • dwntwnboy Jun 14, 2012

    They wasted MORE than enough money on the witch hunt- now move on to REAL issues. This case was a vindictive case brought by a prosecutor who only wanted to make a name for himself and run for higher office...and it worked, he's running for Congress. The money was wasted, people's lives were disrupted by the trial and jury duty- all for the ego of Mr Holding....at OUR expense of course.

  • YippiYiyoKiYay Jun 14, 2012

    I certainly don't see the reason for all this scuttlebutt. Edwards is simply getting everything he paid for. I told this exact outcome 6 months ago. Now all they they have left to do is divide out the money. Edwards is out little or none of his own money, so guess who's paid for this entire sideshow. Yep, that's right. The justice system is just like the AMA. They self manage a money-pig through politicians and judges to finance their ever increasing infrastructure. They ALWAYS take care of their own species as long as they don't tick off the guys in power. Always.

  • beaulahjackson4 Jun 14, 2012

    The trial demonstrated to all that this man is not worthy of our trust - Objective Scientist
    I think most of us already knew that, doubt too many would vote for a guy that cheated on his dying wife, wasn't sharp enough to not impregnant his mistress (he SHOULD know what causes that) and then to disgrace someone else's marriage to cover his mistake. I think that one's a given.
    Secondly:
    accomplished by the trial was the inadequacy of current campaign finance law. It is apparently so "vague, ambiguous --- I don't completely disagree with you on that, although I do think that could have been achieved without the wasted money on such a lengthy trial process. I doubt Congress will write tougher laws for this with or without this trial. It might affect protected individuals....

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