Justice Department Won't Retry John Edwards Case

Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:50pm

The Department of Justice said today that it will not retry its campaign finance case against one-time Democratic presidential hopeful and former Sen. John Edwards after a jury deadlocked late last month on most of the counts with which Edwards was charged.

There had been speculation about whether the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section would seek a new trial or drop the remaining charges after a federal judge in Greensboro, N.C., declared a mistrial on May 31. Jurors cleared Edwards on one count and said their deliberations had reached a standstill on five others.

“We knew that this case — like all campaign finance cases — would be challenging,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement. “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 … 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.”

Edwards, 59, was indicted by a federal grand jury for knowingly receiving and concealing contributions of nearly $1 million from two wealthy donors from 2007 to 2009. The donors, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the widow of billionaire philanthropist Paul Mellon, and Fred Baron, a Texas trial lawyer and prominent Democratic fundraiser, were alleged to have written sizable checks to pay for the living and travel expenses of Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, with whom he had a child.

Edwards’ legal team argued that his campaign committee did not report those donations, which far surpassed the maximum amount allowed by law, because they were private gifts intended to keep his mistress and their child a secret from his wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December 2010.

Federal prosecutors argued that those donations were campaign contributions because Edwards’ bid for the Democratic nomination depended in part on his image as a devoted father and family man. At the time of the indictment, legal experts told Roll Call that securing a conviction in the Edwards case would require a broad reading of what constitutes a campaign finance contribution, and said there was conflicting precedent in similar civil cases that have been considered by the Federal Election Commission.