Saturday 17 February 2018

John Edwards admits 'sins' as he walks free from court

Former US Senator John Edwards makes a statement after the jury reached a verdict at the federal courthouse in Greensboro. Photo: Reuters
Former US Senator John Edwards makes a statement after the jury reached a verdict at the federal courthouse in Greensboro. Photo: Reuters

Jon Swaine

JOHN Edwards, the disgraced former US presidential candidate, last night admitted to doing an "awful lot that was wrong", after walking free from his corruption trial.

Mr Edwards declared “I don’t think God’s through with me” after being cleared of one charge of using hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to hide a pregnant mistress during his failed 2008 presidential bid.

A mistrial was called by Judge Catherine Eagles on five further corruption charges, after a jury of 12 ex-constituents of the former Senator for North Carolina could not agree to unanimous verdicts. It was unclear if prosecutors would seek a retrial.

In a contrite five-minute speech delivered on the steps of the courthouse, the 58-year-old Democrat said: “While I do not believe that I ever did anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there’s no else responsible for my sins.

“I am responsible, and if I want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins, honestly I don’t have to go any further than the mirror," said Mr Edwards, whose wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December 2010. It is me and me alone.”

Choking back tears, he paid tribute to Quinn, the four-year-old daughter he secretly fathered with filmmaker Rielle Hunter and initially disowned, “who I love more than any of you can ever imagine, and who I'm so close to and so, so grateful for”.

The 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee pledged to dedicate his life “to being the best dad that I can be” to his four children, and to working to help disadvantaged children in the poorest parts of America.

The verdict brought a chaotic end to nine days of deliberations that followed a confusing month-long trial. Mr Edwards, who denied all charges, had been facing up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1.5 million (£974,400).

He was found not guilty of masterminding the use of a $725,000 gift from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a 101-year-old banking heiress, to hide his affair with Ms Hunter from the media and his family in 2008 by flying her across the country and putting her up in luxurious hotels.

His lawyers claimed that he did not court the donation from Mrs Mellon, an avid supporter who wrote him notes comparing him to Robert F. Kennedy, and that it was unrelated to his political campaign.

Andrew Young, an aide who led Mr Edwards’s cover-up of Ms Hunter to the point of claiming that he was her lover and Quinn’s father, testified during the trial that his former boss had directed Ms Mellon’s funding of the cover-up scheme and knew it breached a $2,300 limit on campaign donations.

Mr Edwards faced a separate charge of misusing another donation from Ms Mellon in 2007, in addition to two counts of misusing money from Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas lawyer, who died in 2008.

He was also accused of a carrying out a conspiracy with Mr Young and of illegally filing campaign finance reports that distorted the funding arrangements. However, jurors could not agree on his guilt.

They were ordered to resume deliberating after first informing Judge Eagles yesterday afternoon that they could not agree over the five additional counts. However, they returned again soon after to insist that the deadlock could not be broken.

Observers said the courtroom was silent as Judge Eagles took the jury through each count, but that Mr Edwards broke into a relieved smile as it became clear that he was not going to be convicted. His mother, Bobbie, said: "We prayed for this and God answered our prayers."

Mr Edwards thanked the jurors for their “hard work and diligence” during his speech. “Thank goodness we live in a country that has the kind of system we have,” he said.

The jurors’ drawn-out deliberations over complex electoral finance law were marked at several points by unspecified “jury issues” that were addressed behind closed doors. One of the four alternate, or stand-in, jurors, was reported at one stage to be visibly flirting with Mr Edwards.

Their decisions vindicated an early decision by Mr Edwards, once a celebrated trial lawyer, to gamble by rejecting the offer of a plea deal with prosecutors, but will do little to rehabilitate a name once widely tipped for greatness.

Mr Edwards entered politics at 45 and was elected senator for his home state of North Carolina in 1998. He ran for the party’s presidential nomination in 2004 but was defeated by Senator John Kerry, who selected him as his running mate.

After their defeat by George W. Bush, Mr Edwards maintained his political operation, which he turned into a second campaign for president in 2008, which was

Despite finishing second in the Iowa caucuses, he was edged out of the race by the struggle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Even as evidence of his affair mounted, many Democrats believed that Mr Obama would ask him to serve as Attorney General, or even Vice President.

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