Judge declares mistrial on 5 counts in John Edwards corruption case

Posted: June 01, 2012

After almost nine days of deliberations, jurors in the corruption trial of John Edwards reached a not guilty verdict on just one of the six felony counts. On the other five charges the judge declared a mistrial.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles had urged jurors to continue deliberating on the remaining counts against the former U.S. Senator and two-time Democratic presidential candidate until the deadlock was apparent.

Edwards, 58, was indicted by a federal grand jury last June on six felony charges in a case involving nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy political donors - the late lawyer Fred Baron and heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon - to help him hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.

Federal prosecutors charged that Edwards had violated federal campaign finance laws to cover up the extramarital affair with videographer Rielle Hunter that he admitted to following the 2008 campaign.

The trial began in April after its start had been postponed while Edwards was treated for a heart condition.

Neither Edwards nor Hunter testified at trial.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell said in his closing argument on May 17 that Edwards had not broken any law, reported the Greensboro News & Record. "This is a case that should define the difference between someone committing a wrong and someone committing a crime," Lowell told jurors.

In 2007, Edwards conceived a baby with Hunter and convinced campaign staffer Andrew Young to claim paternity. Young, his family and Hunter went into hiding through the first half of 2008.

Edwards denied knowing about the funds from Baron and Mellon, and evidence presented at trial indicated that Young kept about $800,000 of their money, much of it going toward the construction of his new home in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Young, who wrote a book on the cover-up scheme, was the government's star witness and played a central role in closing arguments.

The defense sought to tear apart Young's credibility, the Greensboro newspaper said, picking at discrepancies between his testimony and his book, "The Politician," and portraying him and his wife, Cheri, as schemers who were out to enrich themselves.

"These two ... could shame Bonnie and Clyde," Lowell said.

Prosecutors said Edwards had orchestrated a more than a yearlong effort to hide an affair that Edwards feared would derail his candidacy. The money from Baron and Mellon, prosecutor Robert Higdon said, was meant to keep the campaign afloat.

"He (Edwards) repeatedly talked about two Americas, one with money, power and influence, the other with little money, little power, little influence," Higdon said. "He had no problem with dividing the two Americas when it suited his purposes."

But Lowell countered that Edwards' intentions in hiding the affair were not to keep the campaign going, but rather to avoid devastating his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, who died in December 2010.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Young had committed plenty of wrongs and kept a good chunk of the money intended for the cover-up, and jurors probably did not like him.

But the feds also said Young was little more than a personal servant, one whom Edwards threw under the bus, and not the criminal mastermind that the defense made Young out to be.

Prosecutor David Harbach said, "The Greyhound, folks, has been running through this courtroom for weeks." He said Lowell was trying to "smear" Young and none of it would have happened if Edwards didn't want it to happen.


The Greensboro News & Record contributed to this article.

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