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UPDATE: It's official: The Justice Department has dropped the five remaining campaign finance charges against John Edwards.
"We knew that this case—like all campaign finance cases—would be challenging," Lanny Breuer, the chief of DOJ's criminal division, said late Wednesday afternoon (via Politico). "In the interest of justice, we have decided not to retry Mr. Edwards on those counts."
After a lengthy and high-profile trial, a federal jury deadlocked on five felony charges and acquitted Edwards on one other at the end of last month. The former VP nominee had been accused of illegally using campaign cash to hide his pregnant mistress from the public during his 2008 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Friday, June 1: Several jurors from the John Edwards trial took to the network morning shows on Friday to discuss their acquittal of the former White House hopeful on one count of accepting illegal campaign donations, and their indecision on the five other charges he faced.
The big takeaway: At least some of the jurors were inclined to believe that Edwards was guilty of violating campaign finance law but that ultimately they didn't believe there was enough evidence to convict him.
"I think he definitely had some knowledge of where the money was going,’’ juror Ladonna Foster told NBC's Today show. Juror Cindy Aquaro agreed: "I think he was guilty, but the evidence just was not there for us to prove guilt." Jury foreman David Recchion, meanwhile, cited abouts about the credibility of Edwards aide Andrew Young, who was the key witness for the prosecution, as a "key part of the miss" for the case against Edwards.
The picture painted by other jurors on ABC's Good Morning America was a different one, however. Jonathan Nunn and Shelia Lockwood both told ABC that they didn't believe Edwards was guilty of the charges against him.
From the interviews, overall opinion seems to indicate that the prosecution didn't present their case well enough for the jurors to decide on a verdict for the other counts. We're still waiting to hear if a re-trial is in the cards.
Thursday, May 31: A federal judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the John Edwards campaign finance trial after jurors acquitted the former White House hopeful on one count of accepting illegal campaign donations and said that they couldn't reach a consensus on five other charges related to an elaborate cover-up of his affair with a campaign videographer.
Judge Catherine Eagles' mistrial ruling brings an end to a trial that lasted more than a month, and will likely close a case that dates back to the 2008 presidential election. While federal prosecutors could technically seek a retrial on the remaining charges, such a scenario appears unlikely given how much it cost to try the case the first time around. In the words of CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a retrial would be "inconceivable."
The only charge that the jurors were able to reach a unanimous verdict on was count three, which accused the former Democratic senator of taking an illegal campaign donation from wealthy heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. He was also charged with three other counts of accepting illegal donations, as well as one count each of making false statements and conspiracy.
The jury caught the entire courtroom, including the judge, by surprise earlier in the day when it announced it had reached a unanimous verdict on only count three—and not on all six charges.
That verdict was temporarily kept under wraps while the judge instructed the jurors to continue their deliberations. Shortly after, however, the jurors informed the court they were deadlocked on the remaining charges.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Edwards said that while he did nothing illegal, he "did an awful, awful lot that was wrong." He later added, "I don't think God's done with me."
Prosecutors had accused Edwards of breaking federal campaign laws by orchestrating a scheme that funneled nearly $1 million in campaign cash to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, in order to hide her and their love child from the media in a bid to protect his political ambitions and 2008 presidential campaign.
The defense, meanwhile, contended that even though the Democrat lied publicly about the affair, he knew little about the financial scheme in question and that the money came from wealthy backers who were acting as his friends, and not campaign donors, when they agreed to help hide the politician's infidelity from his cancer-stricken wife.
The criminal charges against Edwards included accepting contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits, causing his campaign to file a false financial disclosure report, and violating the Federal Election Campaign Act. (You can read a breakdown of all six over at CNN.) A key portion of campaign finance law required prosecutors to prove that Edwards willingly violated the rules, a high bar that several court observers speculated would pose problems for the prosecution.
Because each of the six charges carried a potential five-year prison sentence, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee technically faced the possibility of 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if the jury were to return guilty verdicts across the board. However, as Politico notes, federal judges usually sentence in accordance with established guidelines that would have dictated a much shorter sentence, likely in the range of three to four years in a case like this one.