The jury in the John Edwards campaign corruption trial found him not guilty on one count and could not reach a verdict on the other five counts in a stunning and emotional day in federal court Thursday.
Judge Catherine Eagles then declared a mistrial on those five counts, meaning the government’s long pursuit of Edwards on corruption charges could be at an end.
When the decision came, Edwards closed his eyes, rubbed his face and smiled at his daughter Cate, who has been by his side throughout the trial.
He then hugged her and hugged his elderly parents, whispering to them, "I told you this would be OK."
It was a stunning vindication in many ways for Edwards, who had refused to accept a plea bargain and maintained he never broke federal laws.
"I think the jury got it right in this case," said Raleigh attorney, Kieran Shanahan.
Shanahan noted that two key government witnesses, Andrew Young and his wife, "just weren't credible enough to convince 12 jurors."
"The jurors spoke, and they spoke volumes," Shanahan said.
The jurors did not speak to the media when leaving the courthouse. But the Justice Department is "unlikely" to pursue the case further, the Associated Press reported. Government officials will review the outcome before reaching a final decision.
Outside the courtroom, Edwards, flanked by his daughter Cate and parents, expressed gratitude for the decision and praised the jurors for their attention to proceedings during the long trial.
But he declined to criticize prosecutors who sought to put him in prison or to sound victorious, striking a tone that was more humble and repentant.
“This is about me. I want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while I do not believe I did anything illegal and I never thought I was going to do anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong,” he said.
“There was no one else responsible for my sins.”
Edwards gave a glimpse into his private life, too. He thanked his 80-year-old father and 78-year-old mother for coming in from Robbins, N.C. every day to be at the trial. He praised his daughter Cate for being in court every day as well “no matter how awful and painful a lot of the evidence was for her.”
“She never once flinched,” he said. “She said, ‘Dad, I love you, I'll be there no matter what.’”
He said he had continued to take care of his daughter Emma Claire, now 14, and son Jack, now 12, at their home in Chapel Hill.
And he had some remarkable comments about Quinn, his child through Rielle Hunter. He choked up and paused when talking about “my precious Quinn … who I love more than any of you could ever imagine.”
He did not mention Hunter in his comments.
Edwards said he did not know how the legal proceedings would be resolved – the government could decide to continue with the charges – but said, of what’s next for him, “I don’t think God’s through with me. I really believe there are some good things I can do.”
He vowed to be the best father possible and said he would try to help the world’s poor children.
The only count the jury reached a decision on was the third count. That one was about accepting illegal contributions from Bunny Mellon in 2008.
According to the indictment for Count Three, "During the calendar year 2008, in the Middle District of North Carolina and elsewhere, the defendant, Johnny Reid Edwards, while a candidate for federal office, knowingly and willfully accepted and received contributions from [Bunny Mellon] in excess of the limits of the Election Act, which aggregated $25,000 and more, and did aid and abet said offense."
The jury came in Thursday afternoon and told Eagles it had reached a verdict on just one count. She told them to continue deliberations on the other five counts before they returned to the courtroom around 4:20 p.m.
At that point, they informed the judge they were deadlocked and she declared a mistrial.
Edwards had faced six felony charges in a case involving nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy political donors to help hide the Democrat's pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.
The jury heard 17 days of testimony and deliberated for nine days.
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