John Edwards walked out of a federal courthouse a free man Thursday, but with his reputation deservedly in tatters. The Justice Department's reputation didn't fare very well either. Prosecutors shouldn't even think of trying him again.

The former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate has been proved a horrid husband and despicable human being. He cheated on his dying wife, fathered a child with his mistress, denied the baby was his and got a friend to claim to be her dad. That's repugnant.

But the criminal case against him for taking illegal campaign contributions and failing to report them was bogus. Prosecutors never came close to proving any laws were broken when his rich pals funneled $1 million to his mistress for cars, clothes and luxury hotels.

Edwards behaved like a man desperate to hide a tawdry affair from his wife, Elizabeth, not one simply angling to protect his candidacy. The support for Rielle Hunter continued after Edwards was out of the running for president.

So it was no surprise that the jury found him not guilty on one count of accepting illegal contributions and deadlocked on five other charges, resulting in a mistrial. Prosecutors and federal election officials couldn't even agree whether he did anything wrong. The Justice Department wanted to put him in prison for 30 years. The Federal Election Commission didn't even allege a violation of campaign finance rules.

The case was a waste of time and tax dollars.