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No Retrial for John Edwards

John Edwards' long, embarrassing saga into the criminal justice system is over. The Justice Department announced it won't seek to retry him and has moved to dismiss the charges.

DOJ's Lanny Breuer says:

“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,” he said.

Team Edwards says:

“While John has repeatedly admitted to his sins, he has also consistently asserted, as we demonstrated at the trial, that he did not violate any campaign law nor even imagined that any campaign laws could apply,” they said. “We are very glad that, after living under this cloud for over three years, John and his family can have their lives back and enjoy the peace they deserve.”

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The Media 's Reaction to the John Edwards Verdict

Driving home from work, all I had for information on the reaction to the John Edwards' verdict was Sirius. Against my better judgment, I put up with the incessant commercials for debt and income tax relief. I was sorry I did.

On MSNBC, I thought the comments of Chris Matthews and his guests, including the authors of the Game Change, on John Edwards' post-verdict press statement, were appalling.

Matthews and his panel all agreed John Edwards was a delusional egomaniac with no particular political or social insight beneath the surface. One criticized his reading ability. One even called him a psychopath.

What was the basis for these attacks? According to Matthews & panel, Edwards had the audacity to suggest during his post-verdict press conference (you can view it here) that he might still have a political future. Matthews then aired his statements. I didn't hear Edwards say a word about re-entering politics. He talked about wanting to help children in poverty -- he may have been referring to a future public presence, but that's not even close to suggesting another run for political office. [More..]

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Why the Jury Acquitted John Edwards on Count 3

Why did the jury unanimously agree John Edwards was not guilty on Count 3 charging illegal campaign contributions from Bunny Mellon in 2008, while it was hung on the other counts?.

This was the one count that they could reject before without even having to decide whether the money was a campaign contribution. They could reject it based on both or one of the following:

  • Bunny Mellons' December, 2007 and January, 2008 payments were not deposited until after John Edwards withdrew from the Presidential race. Without those two checks, Bunny Mellon's contributions for the year did not exceed $25,000.

and/or

  • Venue in the Middle District of North Carolina was not proven by a preponderance of the evidence on this count. The crime charged was illegal acceptance or receipt of campaign funds. The funds weren't deposited in the Middle District. They weren't even sent there. [More...]

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John Edwards : Not Guilty on One Count, Mistrial on Others

Bump and Update: Huge loss for the Government. The verdict is not guilty on one count, jury deadlocked on others. Edwards spoke after court:

While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there is no one else responsible for my sins," Edwards said on the courthouse steps.

"I don't think God's through with me. I really believe he thinks there's still some good things I can do and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I'm hopeful about is all those kids that I've seen, you know in the poorest parts of this country and some of the poorest parts in the world that I can help them," he said.

[Original Post Below:]

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John Edwards Jury to Resume Deliberations

Update: No verdict today and the jury may still be discussing the Bunny Money.

The jury will resume deliberations in the John Edwards trial today. MSNBC has graciously provided the full transcripts of closing arguments. The Judge's final jury instructions are here. Attorney and trial watcher for MSNBC Hampton Dellinger explains the possible outcomes here.

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No Verdict Today in John Edwards Trial

Update: No verdict today, the jurors asked for some exhibits and a board to write and markers. Their requests pertained to the Bunny Mellon contributions.

Update: Here are the final instructions given to the jury in the John Edwards trial.

I really want to write something positive today, to give Team Edwards support and let them know that, outside of North Carolina, there are people like me and TalkLeft readers who think John Edwards has gotten the short end of the stick in this trial.

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John Edwards: Closing Arguments

By now it's hardly a surprise, just a major disappointment, that the Judge in John Edwards' trial continues to restrict his defense and rule against his legal arguments, while giving the Government everything it wants.

The latest: The Judge is going with the Government's position on the meaning of "the" in the statute that prevents candidates from accepting donations over $2,300.00 if they are "for the purpose of influencing the election."

Although Eagles said she tried to balance the wishes of prosecutors and the defense in drafting her instructions, she delivered a clear victory for the government by saying she would tell the jury that money doesn't have to be for "the sole purpose" of influencing an election to be considered a campaign contribution.

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John Edwards Trial: Defense Rests

John Edwards concluded his defense today. Neither he, his daughter Cate nor Rielle Hunter testified.

The Government apparently did not call rebuttal witnesses. Jury instructions will be argued this afternoon and closing arguments will be tomorrow. The jury will likely begin deliberating Friday.

I think Edwards absolutely made the right decision. He has no burden to prove anything. Had he testified, the Government would have hammered him with his previous lies, over and over. Was he lying then or is he lying now? If he testified and was convicted, the Government would have been able to seek an increase in his sentencing guidelines for obstruction, claiming he testified falsely. He had little to gain and a lot to lose. [More...]

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John Edwards: Here's the Tape

John Edwards was probably singing the Boomtown Rats, “I don’t like Mondays” to himself yesterday. His bad luck began in the morning when first the Judge got snippy with Abbe Lowell about Lowell deciding to put his expert witness on when she still hasn’t ruled on whether she’ll allow it. " Come back later in the and we’ll discuss it."

Lowell calls his next witness, Lora Haggard, former CFO of his John Edwards for President Campaign. More bad news for John Edwards. The Judge, outside the presence of the jury severely curtailed what she could say. She was not allowed to tell the jury that an FEC audit completed just last month, which knew all about the Indictment and monies from Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon, approved without objection his campaign's financial reports that did not include the Baron/Mellon funds,. [More...]

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John Edwards Begins Presenting Defense

Update #1: The FEC concluded an audit last month and found the funds from Baron and Mellon were not campaign contributions, but the Judge wouldn't let the witness testify to that.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles refused to allow Haggard to testify that the FEC determined last July that the money from the two donors wasn't campaign contributions. Prosecutor Jeffrey Tsai argued outside of the jury's presence that the stance of one FEC commissioner was irrelevant to the criminal case.

Haggard was allowed to testify that FEC auditors never asked her to amend campaign finance reports to include the money from Mellon and Baron, even after Edwards was indicted last summer. The audit of the campaign, which was required because Edwards accepted federal campaign matching funds, was finally completed last month, she said.

And the judge still hasn't ruled on whether Edwards' expert can testify. [More...]

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John Edwards: Why He Does Not Need to Testify

NBC's Today Show has a new video on whether John Edwards should testify at trial. It includes interviews with two legal analysts who opine that John Edwards should testify. One even said "It's up to John Edwards to look the jury in the eye and convince them he did not violate the campaign finance laws."

That's absolutely not the law. That the analyst obviously knows this is not the law and may just be making the point that in his view, as a practical matter, jurors will expect Edwards to convince them of his innocence, does not excuse his perpetuating such a false notion. It's really an irresponsible comment.

John Edwards does not have to convince this jury of a single thing. He has zero burden of proof. The burden of proof is completely on the Government. It is the Government that bears the burden of proving each and every element of each crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.

I can think of no good reason for John Edwards to take the stand and I predict he won't. [More...]

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John Edwards Trial: First Defense Witnesses

John Edwards will begin presenting his defense Monday. The Court has published the list of witnesses for the day, in no particular order. They include:

  • Scott Thomas (Former FEC Commissioner and proposed expert witness)
  • Lora Haggard: One of his campaign's finance officers from Georgia and Treasurer for the Center for Promise and Opportunity Foundation (to which Bunny Mellon contributed millions before even met Rielle Hunter).
  • Tim Reilly
  • Scott McLean: Builder of Andrew Young's House
    Harrison Hickman: Friend and Adviser to Edwards, a pollster from MD
  • Robert Lester
  • Wade Smith: Edwards' lawyer who had discussions with Mellon's lawyer Alexander Forger

Where is Rielle Hunter these days? Out and about with daughter Frances Quinn.[More...]

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John Edwards: Judge Denies Defense Request to Dismiss

The Judge in the John Edwards trial heard two hours of argument today on the defense motion for judgment of acquittal and denied the motion.

She ruled there was enough evidence to let the case be decided by the jury. She did express reservations about whether the Government had proved venue in Middle District of North Carolina.

If the defense chooses to present witnesses, it will do so beginning Monday. As I wrote last night, the Government is now seeking a jury instruction on "Sympathy" which leads me to believe it is concerned the defense will present at least one witness whose testimony might evoke sympathy for John Edwards. I can't think of anyone other than Cate Edwards who might fit in that category.

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John Edwards: Curing Undue Prejudice

Right before the Government rested today, it was allowed to play the entire 2008 interview John Edwards gave to 20/20, in which he acknowledged having a brief affair with Rielle Hunter that had ended a long time ago, and in which he said Elizabeth knew all about it. Also in the interview, Edwards said:

"I have never asked anybody to pay a dime of money. Never been told that any money has been paid. Nothing has been done at my request."

Even if all three of those statements were a lie, John Edwards would be not guilty if the funds provided by Baron and Mellon were not "campaign contributions" as defined by the federal campaign finance statutes. [More..]

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John Edwards: Government's Final Witnesses

The Government will rest its case against John Edwards today. According to the Charlotte Observer, the final three witnesses will be law enforcement officers. According to another account, one of the final witnesses will be Leo H. Hindery, Jr., a Democratic power player and former cable magnate who became the Edwards campaign's senior economic policy advisor in June, 2007. Hindery switched his support to Obama after Edwards dropped out,

What would he testify to? Possibly that Edwards' was interested in being Attorney General if Obama won the election. From Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster): [More...]

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