At long last, after nine days of deliberations, an answer to the question on everyone’s mind: Er, why was this guy on trial again?
Actually, regardless of the verdict, I’m not sure we’re going to get that answer.
Edwards, a former Democratic U.S. senator and presidential nominee, was charged with accepting illegal campaign contributions, falsifying documents and conspiring to receive and conceal the contributions. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine…
Prosecutors said Edwards “knowingly and willingly” accepted almost $1 million from two wealthy donors to hide former mistress Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy, then concealed the donations by filing false and misleading campaign disclosure reports…
Prosecutors argued that Edwards knowingly violated campaign finance laws by accepting the large contributions from Rachel Mellon and Fred Baron that went to support Hunter. Edwards “knew these rules well,” Higdon said, and should have known that the contributions violated campaign finance laws.
A VP at the Center for Competitive Politics comments:
If Edwards is successfully prosecuted, we may be entering an “Alice in Wonderland” world, where conduct that would not draw the ire of civil law enforcement can lead to prison. Because Edwards could be convicted for taking a contribution that the Federal Election Commission, which regulates campaign finance, wouldn’t even regard as a political donation.
This could happen if the jury, following the judge’s final instructions, issued Friday, finds as a “fact” that the money given by Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, which Edwards and his associates used to hide his mistress, was given for “a purpose” of influencing a federal election. That purpose could be one of several purposes.
How in the world a jury – or, frankly, anyone – could say what another person’s purpose in doing anything is astonishing. It also flies in the face of settled constitutional law.
Updates are coming. Stand by.
Update: I thought the protracted deliberations meant we were headed for a hung jury, but now I’m thinking it probably means that he’ll be acquitted of the most serious charges at least.
Update: Hold the phone — looks like they might be more or less hung after all. CNN says they’ve reached a unanimous verdict on only one count out of six; the judge, apparently, has ordered them to get back to work on the others. Hoo boy.
Wondering now what’ll happen if he’s convicted on that count and they deadlock on the rest. Will the prosecution retry him given the heat they’ve taken for going after him this time and knowing that the next jury is likely to have a hard time too? Or will they take the conviction on a single count as a consolation prize and walk away?
Update: Edwards’s lawyers have asked for a mistrial. Tick tock.
Update: The prosecution officially has a “situation” on its hands. From ABC’s Rick Klein:
Edwards NOT GUILTY on Count 3; jury hung on all others
What do you do now if a mistrial is declared on the other five counts? You’ve already been embarrassed on one of the counts and have no assurances at all that a new jury will even reach a verdict on the others, let alone convict. Time for them to cut their losses and lick their wounds?
Update: Per ABC’s banner headline, a mistrial has been declared. I’d bet heavily that the prosecution throws in the towel instead of scheduling a rematch.
Update: Via Fox News Insider, here’s the man himself after the verdict reflecting on his moral failings and professing his love for the child whose paternity he once denied on national television. Two words: Edwards 2016?