(GREENSBORO, N.C.) — A North Carolina jury found former Sen. John Edwards not guilty Thursday on one of six counts in a campaign-finance trial, and declared itself hopelessly deadlocked on the remaining charges, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on those counts.
Edwards, a two-time presidential candidate, accused of soliciting nearly $1 million from wealthy backers to finance a cover up of his illicit affair and illegitimate child during his 2008 bid for the White House, was found not guilty on count 3 of the six-part indictment. That count pertained only to whether Edwards illegally received several hundred thousand dollars in donations from wealthy heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to cover up the affair in 2008.
Following the verdict, Edwards, who remained silent throughout the trial, gave an emotional speech on the courthouse steps. He acknowledged his moral shortcomings and thanked his children, dramatically pausing when mentioning 4-year-old Frances Quinn, the baby he fathered with his mistress.
Edwards was joined every day in the courtroom by his oldest daughter Cate, 30. He said he took care of his two other children, Emma, 14, and Jack, 12, seeing them off to school every day.
But when it came to acknowledging Quinn, the illegitimate daughter he had with a mistress, Rielle Hunter, he got choked up. “My precious Quinn,” he said, “who I love more than any of you can ever imagine, [who] I am so close to, so, so grateful for.”
Edwards said he did not believe he did anything “illegal” but acknowledged the affair he conducted while his wife, Elizabeth, was dying of cancer was “awful” and “wrong.”
“No one else is responsible for my sins,” he said. “I am responsible.
“If I want to find the person responsible for my sins, I don’t have to go further than a mirror,” he added. “It was me and me alone.”
After nine days of deliberations, three times as long as the defense took to put on its case, the courtroom was thrown into confusion Thursday afternoon when it briefly appeared the jury had reached a verdict on all counts.
The jury informed the judge it had not reached a verdict and was charged again to go back to deliberating.
The other counts pertained to Mellon’s donations in 2007, donations in 2007 and 2008 from another wealthy donor, Fred Baron, a conspiracy charge, and a charge of making false statements.
Less than an hour after the judge sent them back to deliberate, the jury returned and declared itself hung on those five outstanding counts.
It was not immediately clear whether the government would seek to retry Edwards on those counts.
The jury began deliberating on May 18 after a month of testimony.
The government spent three weeks building its case. Much of it hinged on the testimony of Andrew Young, once Edwards’ most loyal aide, who testified he collected $725,000 from Mellon, who disguised her contributions as payments for antique furniture.
The prosecution detailed the way Edwards met Hunter and how he worked throughout his campaign to keep the affair and later his love child a secret. The government said Baron, another wealthy backer who was once Edwards’ campaign treasurer contributed an additional $300,000 to move Hunter and her baby all over the country to keep them away from the media.
None of the principle witnesses in the case were ever called to testify. Baron died of cancer in 2008. Mellon is 101-years-old. And neither Hunter, not Edwards himself, ever took the stand.
In just three days of defense testimony, Edwards’ lawyers tried to portray Young as the mastermind of a plot to use Edwards’ scandal to request funds for his own personal use. Any lies Edwards told, his lawyers said, were in an effort to keep the affair a secret from his wife, Elizabeth, who was dying of cancer, and not to advance his political career.
The panel of eight men and four women spent nine days and more than 50 hours deliberating, breaking only for lunch or when the judge ordered closed-door sessions to discuss issues with them. The jurors themselves captured headlines in recent days, when four alternate jurors began wearing color-coordinated outfits.
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