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US prosecutors drop case against John Edwards
Justice department closes book against the former presidential hopeful charged with misusing campaign funds.
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2012 02:57
Edwards was accused of secretly soliciting more than $900,000 in illegal campaign funds from two donors [Reuters]

The US justice department has dropped its criminal case against former senator John Edwards, closing the book on a prosecution that had threatened the two-time presidential hopeful with prison and a further fall from grace.

"We knew that this case - like all campaign finance cases - would be challenging," Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney-general, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on five of the six counts of the indictment, however, and we respect their
judgement.

"In the interest of justice, we have decided not to retry Mr Edwards on those counts."

Edwards, 59, was indicted in June 2011 and accused of seeking more than $900,000 from two wealthy supporters to conceal his pregnant mistress from voters during his bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination four years ago.

Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington DC, said while the courts are done with Edwards, the former senator's reputation remains tainted.

"In the court of public opinion ... John Edwards is likely to go down as the Democrat most likely to succeed [but] who in the end, let down his wife, his family and his party," he said.

The government said he orchestrated a cover-up scheme that diverted money from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and trial lawyer Fred Baron to mistress Rielle Hunter and campaign aide Andrew Young, who said he once falsely claimed paternity of Edwards' daughter with Hunter at the candidate's request.

Illegal contributions

A federal jury acquitted Edwards last month on one count of accepting illegal political contributions but deadlocked on five related campaign-finance charges arising from his failed 2008 White House bid.

Law-enforcement sources said almost immediately that prosecutors were unlikely to continue to pursue the case. But the final decision was not announced until Wednesday, nearly two weeks after the lengthy trial's conclusion.

Jurors, who deliberated across nine days in Greensboro, North Carolina, said in interviews afterwards that there was not
enough evidence against Edwards to warrant convictions.

Edwards' attorneys said on Wednesday they were grateful for the government's decision to dismiss the remaining charges.

They reiterated their contention that Edwards did not violate campaign laws or believe that such laws could apply to money meant as a personal gift.

"We are confident that the outcome of any new trial would have been the same," Abbe Lowell, Allison Van Laningham and Alan Duncan, defence attorneys, said in a joint statement.

"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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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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