After a lengthy nine-day deliberation, the jury in the criminal trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards found him not guilty on one count of campaign finance corruption, and a mistrial was declared on five other counts.
The one criminal charge on which Edwards was found not guilty stemmed from his allegedly illegal financial transactions with Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in 2008, according to a report from CBS News.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Mellon and Fred Baron gave almost $1 million in thinly veiled political contributions that were intended to be used by Edwards to help his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their child.
Campaign donations are usually limited at a much lower threshold, so if prosecutors could prove that this was a campaign contribution, then Edwards could have been in serious trouble.
Towards this end, the indictment claimed that these contributions counted as campaign donations because they were intended to protect the political candidacy of Edwards. The jury, however, did not buy this argument, and Edwards mounted a successful criminal defense against this charge.
Sources say that Edwards’ criminal defense attorneys argued that Edwards did not knowingly violate campaign finance laws because he was not aware that Mellon and Baron had given his campaign the large donation.
Edwards’ attorneys claimed that one of his assistants went behind his back to collect the money, and used much of it for his personal benefit. These arguments, it seems, were fairly convincing to the jury.
As for the other five counts related to illegal financial transactions, the jury failed to reach a consensus, so the judge declared a . Sources do not say whether prosecutors plan to retry Edwards on these failed charges.
Despite his victory in court this week, the long legal saga of the two-time presidential candidate probably killed Edwards’ political career.
The saga started a few years ago, when gossip magazines revealed that Edwards was engaged in an affair with Hunter, with whom he had a child.
The story eventually grew more bizarre when Andrew Young, a former aide to Edwards, tried to cover up the affair by telling others that he was actually the father of Hunter’s child.
And all of this was occurring while Edwards’ long-suffering wife, Elizabeth, was fighting a battle with cancer. So, while Edwards may have proved his innocence in a court of law, he has a long road to travel before he is able to prove his innocence in the court of public opinion.