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John Edwards on mistrial: ‘While I do not believe I did anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong’

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Ticket

John Edwards appeared thankful outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, after the jury in his corruption trial said that it could not agree on a verdict for five of six counts, forcing U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles to declare a mistrial.

The one count the 12-member jury agreed on--count three--was related to $725,000 given to Edwards by Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a wealthy Texas heiress. The jury found Edwards not guilty of that count.

"I think those jurors were an examplar for what juries are supposed to do in this country," Edwards, a former attorney, said.  "They were very, very impressive."

Earlier Thursday, Eagles asked the jury to continue deliberations and come to a unanimous decision on the remaining five counts, but the jury returned without one.

[RELATED: North Carolinians weigh in on the Edwards case]

On the courthouse steps, Edwards--flanked by his attorney, Abbe Lowell, his daughter Cate and his two elderly parents--spoke for several minutes and remained mostly composed.

"I want to make sure everyone hears from me," Edwards said. "While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought that I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong."

"There is no one else responsible for my sins," he continued. "I am responsible--none of the people who came to court and testified are responsible, nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible. It is me and me alone."

Edwards appeared to choke up before he spoke about Frances Quinn, his four-year-old daughter with Hunter. "My precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you can ever imagine," the former senator said.

Edwards the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., May 31, 2012. (Chuck Burton/AP)

Click image to see more photos.

Edwards had been charged with conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer, during the 2008 presidential election. He faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if he had been convicted on all counts.

The jury began deliberations on May 18 after a month of testimony that covered the sordid details of Edwards' affair with Hunter, the elaborate cover-up and campaign finance law.

Prosecutors said Edwards knew exactly what he was doing in 2008 when he used nearly $1 million in campaign funds to cover up his affair with Hunter.

Lawyers for the former presidential candidate claimed the payments from Mellon and trial lawyer Fred Baron were intended as personal gifts, not political contributions, to shield Edwards' wife from learning of Hunter's pregnancy with his child. Elizabeth Edwards, who was battling cancer at the time, died in 2010.

The defense argued that while he may have been a "bad husband," he did not violate any federal laws.

"This verdict reflects the struggle that this jury appears to have had in finding some clear cut evidence of criminality," Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor and partner at McCarter & English, wrote in an email. "Despite the government's best efforts, the defense was able to appeal to the jurors' sense of fair play and justice even when dealing with an extremely unsympathetic defendant whose credibility was severely damaged by his own conduct."

"However morally reprehensible the conduct [was] here," Mintz added, "they could not agree that it added up to a criminal violation."

Edwards did not testify during the trial, nor did Hunter, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., with Frances Quinn.

From combined staff and wire reports.

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