GREENSBORO, N.C. — John Edwards’ campaign finance fraud case ended in a mistrial Thursday when jurors acquitted him on one charge and deadlocked on the other five, unable to decide whether he used money from two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress while he ran for president and his wife was dying of cancer.
The monthlong trial exposed a sordid sex scandal, but prosecutors couldn’t convince jurors the candidate masterminded a cover-up using about $1 million, and ultimately, jurors decided tawdry didn’t necessarily mean criminal.
“While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there is no one else responsible for my sins,” Mr. Edwards said on the courthouse steps.
The jury’s decision came on a confusing day. The judge initially called jurors in to read a verdict on all six counts, before learning that they had only agreed to one. About an hour later, the jury sent the note to the judge saying it had exhausted its discussions.
When the not guilty verdict was read, Mr. Edwards choked up, put a single finger to his lip and took a moment to compose himself. He turned to his daughter, Cate, in the first row and smiled.
When the judge declared the mistrial and discharged the jury, Mr. Edwards hugged his daughter, his parents and his attorneys. Later, he thanked the jury and his family, even choking up when talking about the daughter he had with his mistress Rielle Hunter. He called Francis Quinn Hunter precious “whom I love, more than any of you can ever imagine and I am so close to and so, so grateful for. I am grateful for all of my children.”
Then he started talking about his future.
“I don’t think God’s through with me. I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids that I’ve seen, you know in the poorest parts of this country and some of the poorest parts in the world that I can help them,” he said.
Mr. Edwards would have faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges. He did not testify, along with his mistress Rielle Hunter and the two donors whose money was at issue.
Jurors acquitted him on a charge of accepting illegal campaign contributions, involving $375,000 from elderly heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in 2008. He had also been charged with illegally accepting $350,000 from Mellon in 2007, other donations from wealthy Texas attorney Fred Baron, filing a false campaign finance report and conspiracy.
The jurors, who deliberated nine days, did not talk to the media as they left the courthouse. Several media organizations, including The Associated Press, have filed a motion asking for the names to be released but the judge has refused to release the information for at least a week.
Federal 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.
The trial recounted the most intimate details of Mr. Edwards’ affair with Ms. Hunter, including reference to a sex tape of the two together that was later destroyed. It also rehashed the elaborate cover-up that involved his most trusted aide, the aide’s wife, and Mr. Baron and Ms. Mellon.