A North Carolina jury found former U.S. Senator John Edwards Not Guilty on 1 of 6 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 donors to finance a cover-up of his illicit affair and illegitimate child during his 2008 run 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 Virginia heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to cover-up the affair in 2008.
After 9 days of deliberations, three times as long as the defense took to put on its case, the courtroom was thrown into confusion when it briefly appeared the jury had reached on a verdict on only 1 count.
The jury informed the judge it had not reached a verdict on the 5 remaining counts, so the judge ordered them 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 5 outstanding counts.
It is not clear whether prosecutors will seek to retry John Edwards on those counts.
Following the verdict Edwards hugged his attorney, his daughter Cate, 30, and his two elderly parents. Those family members were a constant presence throughout the trial, subjected to some of most torrid details of Edwards extramarital escapades.
Edwards’ father Wallace, said, “This says it all.”
The jury began deliberating on May 18 after a month of testimony, which at times sounded more like a steamy soap opera than a trial on the intricacies of campaign finance rules.
Prosecutors spent 3 weeks building its case. They detailed the way Edwards met mistress Rielle Hunter and how he worked throughout his campaign to keep the affair and later his love child a secret.
None of the principle witnesses in the case were ever called to testify. And neither Hunter, nor Edwards, ever took the stand.
Defense attorneys argued that any lies John Edwards told 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 8 men and 4 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.