The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that former presidential candidate John Edwards will not be tried again on charges related to conspiracy, falsifying campaign statements or accepting allegedly illegal campaign contributions.
After weeks of testimony and nine days of deliberations, a North Carolina jury acquitted Edwards of one charge and deadlocked on the other five charges last month. As many legal experts anticipated, the Justice Department opted not to pursue a retrial. Manuel Roig-Franzia reported for the Washington Post,
"We knew that this case - like all campaign finance cases - would be challenging," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said in a statement. "But it is our duty to bring hard cases when we believe that the facts and the law support charging a candidate for high office with a crime."
Several Justice officials said the department decided it was not worth it to put any more resources into the expensive case.
Breuer's statement also said,
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.
The prosecution's case was more focused on "deeply personal details" about Edwards' extramarital affair than about campaign finance law. I agree with Jeralyn Merritt:
I don't think the prosecutors tried a professional case. Their evidence consisted of the testimony of Andrew Young, who admitted putting donations to his own use and but for singing for his supper, would have been facing criminal charges, and witnesses who did little but broadcast intimate and tawdry details of Edward's affair and marriage, violating even the privacy of his deceased wife. And none of it proved the most critical element in the case: Were the donations campaign contributions within the meaning of the Federal Election Campaign Act?
Once an FEC audit determined that the personal gifts in question were not campaign contributions, Edwards should never have been charged. Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, noted after the mistrial, "It is all the more astounding DOJ brought this case, given the Department's refusal to prosecute other politicians, such as former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and now-deceased Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), all of whom engaged in much clearer crimes."
Speaking of alleged political crimes, the Justice Department announced this week that it will sue the state of Florida over the ongoing purge of voter rolls.