The John Edwards trial, in which the former presidential candidate was charged with misusing campaign donations to cover up his affair with the mistress whom he also impregnated, rendering a possible sentence of 30 years in prison, ended this Wednesday, when jurors acquitted Edwards on the count of accepting illegal campaign contribution, and dead-locked on the other five felony charges. The judge declared a mistrial, and decided that he will not seek to retry Edward.
“Big sigh of relief,” tweeted Cate Edwards, his eldest daughter, who sat with him throughout most of the trial.
The prosecution seems diplomatic about the case, saying “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,” adding that he respected the jury’s judgment not to seek a retrial “in the interest of justice.”
Not all critics were so magnanimous regarding the trial. Melanie Sloan, the executive director for the campaign watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, thinks the whole case was a mistake: “It was a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. Now maybe the Justice Department can get back to prosecuting people who actually broke the law.”
Bruce Reinhart, a criminal defense attorney and 19 year federal prosecutor, was a bit more open-minded about the case: “I think they were trying to plow new ground, but I can’t say they were wrong to bring the case. Sometimes you have to bring tough cases, and tough cases are hard to win… It’s always easier to take another shot and then blame the jury if the jury doesn’t convict. It takes a lot of integrity to say ‘enough is enough and we’re going to walk away.’”
Edwards, for his part, was unwilling to admit his paternity over his mistress’s daughter for over two years, till finally he confessed. Since then, he has publicly professed his love his daughter and admits he made mistakes. Putting it in theological light, he said:
“I don’t think God is through with me. I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do. And whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids that I’ve seen in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world, that I can help them in whatever way I ‘m still capable of helping them.”
Whether or not this counts as penance for Edwards, he is banking on the public being as forgiving as God.