The Lookout

Justice Department drops remaining charges against John Edwards

Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News
The Lookout

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Edwards after a deadlocked jury declined to convict him on five of six charges. (Chuck Burton/AP)

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it will give up its criminal case against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

In May, a deadlocked North Carolina federal jury found Edwards not guilty of one charge of accepting illegal campaign donations. The group couldn't reach a decision on five other felony charges, including one alleging that Edwards knowingly used $1 million in secret campaign donations from wealthy donors to support his mistress. Edwards could have faced 30 years in prison if convicted.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement that the Justice Department put forward its best case. "The jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on five of the six counts of the indictment, however, and we respect their judgment. In the interest of justice, we have decided not to retry Mr. Edwards on those counts."

The prosecution was short on proof that Edwards knew about the payments or that he knew that accepting them was illegal. "As noted by nearly every campaign finance lawyer who considered the matter, this was a lousy case," Melanie Sloan, director of the campaign finance watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics told the Associated Press after the trial. "All the salacious details prosecutors offered up to prove that Edwards is, indeed, despicable, were not enough to persuade the jury to convict him."

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