WASHINGTON (RNN) - The U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to retry former presidential candidate John Edwards on corruption charges after five of the six counts he was indicted upon resulted in a mistrial.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's criminal division said despite the fact that the department believes the law supported charging Edwards with violating campaign finance laws, their decision was "in the interest of justice."
"The jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on five of the six counts of the indictment, however, we respect their judgment," he said.
A North Carolina jury found Edwards not guilty of one of six counts in his federal corruption trial May 31. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining five charges, resulting in a mistrial.
Edwards had been indicted on one count of conspiracy, one count of falsifying campaign statements and four counts of accepting contributions that exceeded legal limits. He faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
The federal jury in North Carolina found Edwards not guilty of misusing campaign funds donated by wealthy benefactor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. The former senator was accused of using almost $1 million in campaign contributions to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter.
"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," Breuer said in a statement Wednesday.
Shortly after the May 31 verdict was announced, Edwards made his own statement before the media. He thanked the jury, his supporters and all five of his children.
"Thank you for the jurors and their incredibly hard work, and their diligence. They took their job very, very seriously," Edwards said. "Thank goodness that we live in a country that has the kind of system we have. This jury is exemplary of what juries are supposed to do."
He named all five children by name: Emma Claire, Jack, Cate, his deceased son, Wade; and Frances Quinn, his child with former mistress Rielle Hunter.
"And then finally, my precious Quinn, whom I love more than any of you could ever imagine," he said. "I am so grateful for Quinn."
Jury deliberations lasted nine days, with the trial going 17. Testimony at times resembled the plot of a soap opera more than a criminal trial.
A key witness in the case was former aide Andrew Young, who admitted to taking money from secret donations meant to hide Hunter and using them to build his own $1.6 million dream home.
Defense attorneys argued Edwards had no knowledge of the mishandling of money and other misdeeds, and he was only guilty of being a horrible husband to his wife, Elizabeth, who was battling cancer at the time of the affair.
Upon his acquittal, Edwards reiterated he felt he had done nothing illegal.
"I wanna make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while I do not believe I did anything illegal and never thought I did anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong," Edwards said after the verdict was announced. "And there is no one else responsible for my sins."
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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