Federal prosecutors drop case against Edwards

John Edwards (Bob Leverone)

June 14, 2012 4:04:33 AM PDT
Federal prosecutors have moved to drop all charges against John Edwards after his corruption trial ended last month in a deadlocked jury.

A jury in North Carolina acquitted the former presidential candidate last month on one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions. It deadlocked on five other felony counts, resulting in a mistrial on those charges.

A U.S. Justice Department statement on Wednesday said prosecutors will not seek to retry Edwards on the five unresolved counts.

Edwards was accused of masterminding a scheme to use about $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy political donors to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.

Meanwhile, a Durham man who served as a juror in the Edwards case is speaking out. Otis Cooper believed the Justice Department didn't have enough evidence to even bring Edwards to trial in the first place.

"I think it makes sense," said Cooper about the decision to drop the remaining charges against Edwards.

Cooper deliberated with seven other men and four-women for about 50 hours after pouring over the evidence for nine days. He's convinced a new trial for Edwards would have brought the same outcome.

"If the evidence wasn't there, there's very little the prosecution can do with it," said Cooper. "We never saw it make the full circle back to Mr. Edwards."

Cooper, a one-time Winston-Salem police officer and retired Durham fire chief, said he's convinced Edwards' aide Andrew Young orchestrated the scheme and that Young's testimony as the prosecution's star witness did more harm than good.

"In my view, he was untrustworthy from the beginning," said Cooper.

"I just didn't think that they presented enough evidence to convince me that even the money that was given was a campaign contribution at all," said alternate juror Denise Speight.

Speight said the prosecution presented more about Edward's personal life than his alleged crimes.

"I think he was guilty of a lot of things -- that definitely -- but I didn't feel that he was guilty of things that they were actually charging him with," said Speight.

Edwards' lawyers maintain that he did not violate any campaign laws.

Statement From Abbe D. Lowell of Chadbourne & Parke and Allison O. Van Laningham and Alan W. Duncan of Smith Moore Leatherwood:

"We are grateful that the Justice Department, after hearing from the jury, has dismissed the remaining charges in this case. 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, which our evidence showed seems to have agreed with our views on the law. 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. 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."

Statement from Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division:

"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. Last month, the government put forward its best case against Mr. Edwards, and I am proud of the skilled and professional way in which our prosecutors from the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina conducted this trial. 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."

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