Federal prosecutors dropped their case against John Edwards on Wednesday. This was two weeks after a North Carolina jury acquitted him of accepting illegal campaign contributions and couldn’t reach a verdict on the five other felony counts, which prompted the judge to declare a mistrial.
The government had accused Edwards of using $1 million in secret funds from two of his donors to hide his pregnant mistress when he ran for president in 2008. If Edwards had been convicted of all the charges, he would have gone to prison for 30 years and paid $1.5 million.
The testimony of Edwards’ right-hand man, Andrew Young, that he had deposited most of the money at issue in the case into his family’s personal accounts, was the basis for the government’s case, but inconsistencies in Young’s past statements and the revelation that Young had used much of the money to build a $1.6 million home for him and his wife contributed to the jury’s verdict.
Many experts said Edwards should not even have been tried. Melanie Sloan, the executive director for the campaign watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said, “It was a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. Now maybe the Justice Department can get back to prosecuting people who actually broke the law.”
During the course of the trial, Edwards’ affair while his wife was dying of cancer was revealed, but he wasn’t exactly contrite. After the conclusion of his trial, Edwards denied doing anything illegal and said: “There is no one else responsible for my sins. I don’t think God’s through with me. I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do.”
The Department of Justice let Edwards go, which is probably the right decision. But that same department hounded former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska out of office in 2009 and only later had their case overturned when it was found prosecutors knowingly concealed evidence and allowed false testimony to be presented at trial.
Of course, Edwards is a Democrat and Stevens was a Republican, so that explains that.