Federal prosecutors dropped all charges on Wednesday against former US presidential candidate John Edwards, triggering criticism that the year-long prosecution was a waste of time and taxpayer money.
After a six-week trial in North Carolina, jurors acquitted Edwards on May 31 on one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions and deadlocked on five other felony counts. The judge declared a mistrial.
The US Department of Justice said in a court order that it would not seek to retry Edwards on the five unresolved counts.
Assistant US Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who oversees the agency’s criminal division, said prosecutors knew the case, like all campaign finance cases, would be challenging, but he said it is “our duty to bring hard cases” when warranted.
At trial, the case against Edwards rested largely on the -testimony of his former right-hand man, Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity of his boss’ baby and deposited most of the money at issue in the case into his family’s personal accounts.
However, on cross examination, Edwards’ lawyers used inconsistencies from Young’s past statements to undermine his credibility and used bank records to show the aide and his wife siphoned off much of the money to help build their US$1.6 million dream home.
Several jurors said a clear majority within the group after deliberating for nine days were leaning toward acquitting Edwards on all charges.
Prosecutors went ahead despite a decision by the Federal Election Commission not to pursue a civil case against Edwards. Several campaign finance experts said that even if Edwards had known about the money flowing to his mistress, he was not breaking the law.