The judge declared a mistrial, but former presidential candidate John Edwards declared himself a sinner Thursday and said he was solely responsible for the lies that brought down his stellar political career.
Edwards was found not guilty of one count of using campaign donations to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. A mistrial was declared on the five remaining counts.
The disgraced politician saw his career collapse after he fathered a child with videographer Rielle Hunter in 2007 and then lied about their affair to his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, and the public.
Outside court in Greensboro, North Carolina, a relieved Edwards, who was John Kerry’s vice presidential running mate in 2004, said he only had himself to blame for his spectacular fall from grace but insisted he had done nothing criminal.
“While I do not believe I did anything illegal or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there is no one else responsible for my sins,” he said.
Choking up as he spoke, Edwards gave a very public acceptance of four-year-old Frances Quinn, the daughter whose paternity he once denied.
After thanking the rest of his family for their support, he said: “And then, finally, my precious Quinn who I love more than any of you could ever imagine, and I am so close to and so, so grateful for.”
Several seconds passed before he continue with an eye obviously on some kind of rehabilitation even if his political career was finished long ago.
“I don’t think God’s through with me,” he said. “I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do.”
The 58-year-old former North Carolina senator had faced up to 30 years in prison and $ 1.5 million in fines if convicted of intentionally using nearly $ 1 million from two wealthy donors to hide his affair for political reasons.
Experts said it was highly unlikely there would be a retrial, given the not guilty verdict and the complexities of campaign finance law that always made the Edwards prosecution so risky.
The mistrial ruling capped a confusing and dramatic day in Greensboro as jurors struggled to convince Judge Catherine Eagles that they were unable to reach a verdict on most of the charges.
The judge appeared surprised when the foreman originally announced that a verdict had only been reached on one count, concerning the alleged illegal use of a 2008 donation from banking heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, now 101.
Edwards faced another count of misusing a donation from Mellon in 2007 as well as two similar counts of misusing money given by wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron, who died in 2008.
A fifth charge alleged conspiracy between Edwards and his one-time aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed to be the baby’s father just before an American tabloid revealed the affair. A sixth count accused Edwards of illegally filing campaign finance reports.
After a short recess, Eagles ordered the jurors to return to their deliberations for the rest of the day to see if they could reach a unanimous decision on all counts.
“There is no reason to believe that any future trial could produce better or more decisive evidence,” Eagles said, as a hunched-up Edwards, accompanied by his daughter Cate, looked on, rubbing his temples nervously.
Jurors had been deliberating for nine days in the case that laid bare the extramarital affair that the Democratic presidential candidate embarked on during his second bid for the White House.
An hour after being asked to resume, the jury insisted it had exhausted all possible options and was still deadlocked. The judge called the jurors back to the courtroom and declared a mistrial on the five remaining counts.
Prosecutors had pinned their hopes on an August 2008 interview — after his presidential bid ended — in which Edwards publicly admitted the affair for the first time but denied being the father of Hunter’s baby girl, despite insisting he wanted to tell the truth.
Days earlier Edwards had been photographed cradling Frances Quinn at a Beverly Hills hotel. But he refused to publicly recognize that he had fathered the child until January 2010.
The defense introduced evidence during the trial showing that much of the funds — about $ 800,000 of it — ended up in the hands of Young, and much of that went towards the construction of the aide’s $ 1.6 million North Carolina home.
Defense attorneys say Edwards did not ask for the money that was used to hide the affair, and that the contributions were unrelated to the campaign.