John Edwards walked out of a federal courthouse a free man Thursday, but with his reputation deservedly in tatters.
The former U.S. senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has been proved a horrid husband and despicable human being. He cheated on his dying wife, fathered a child with the other woman, notoriously denied the little girl was his and stood by while a friend claimed to be her dad. That’s just wrong.
But the criminal case against him for taking illegal campaign contributions and making false statements about it was bogus. Prosecutors spent almost the entire trial talking about Edwards' personal failings. They never came close to proving any laws were broken when a couple of his rich friends paid almost $1 million to keep his mistress in cars, clothes and luxury hotels.
Edwards behaved more like a man desperate to hide a tawdry affair from his wife, Elizabeth, than a man angling to protect his political viability. Especially since the support for mistress Rielle Hunter continued after Edwards was out of the running for president.
It was no surprise that after deliberating for nine days, the jury found him not guilty on one count of accepting illegal campaign 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 Department of Justice wanted to put him in prison for 30 years. The Federal Election Commission didn’t even allege a civil violation of campaign finance rules.
This case was a waste of tax dollars. Prosecutors shouldn’t even think of trying again.