Thu May 31, 2012
Mistrial Declared In John Edwards Corruption Case
Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 10:58 pm
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. The verdict is in for John Edwards, and it's a good one for the former presidential candidate and one-time vice presidential nominee. The federal jury in Greensboro, North Carolina acquitted him on one of the six counts he faced in his corruption trial and deadlocked on the five others. The judge declared a mistrial on those counts. Edwards was accused of using almost a million dollars from two donors to cover up his extramarital affair with his pregnant mistress. After today's verdict, flanked by his elderly parents and his daughter, Kate, Edwards spoke outside the courthouse.
JOHN EDWARDS: I am responsible. And if I want to find the person who should be accountable for my sins, honestly, I don't have to go any further than the mirror. It is me, and me alone.
BLOCK: North Carolina Public Radio's Jeff Tiberii has been following the trial and he joins me now from Greensboro. And Jeff, pretty remarkable appearance by John Edwards after this verdict came in, an appearance of contrition.
JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: Absolutely. I did not expect him to speak for this long. He spoke with his elderly parents and his daughter at his side. He spoke about his children. He spoke about really looking in the mirror, taking responsibility, and not pointing a finger or even raising a finger in any particular direction.
BLOCK: And he did mention - he thanked his children, including his - what he called his precious daughter, Quinn, the child who was born from his affair with his mistress, Rielle Hunter.
TIBERII: And there have been all kinds of things written about the affair, the daughter, Quinn, that he had with Rielle Hunter, now more than four years ago. In anything that I've read or seen, I've never seen him make a statement quite like that about Quinn.
BLOCK: Well, Jeff, let's walk back through the day. The jury had come back at one point saying that they had a verdict, and it turned out to be a partial verdict. What happened?
TIBERII: About 2:45, Melissa, the jury came in. They had sent a note back, it said - we have finished our deliberations and have reached a decision on counts one through six. In all actuality, they had reached a decision but not a verdict on counts one through six. They were deadlocked on five of these counts. They had only reached a unanimous verdict on one count, which was count three.
BLOCK: And that count, in particular, why don't you tick through what that one was that they at least agreed on, and before they deadlocked on the others.
TIBERII: Count three, Melissa, was illegal campaign contributions in 2008 from Bunny Mallon. They found John Edwards not guilty. And all the legal experts said of the six counts, that was the weakest. So, when we heard at about 3:00 that the jury had a unanimous decision on count three, we all felt - okay, they're leaning not guilty and mistrial, because we just thought if they were going to convict on that count, they would likely convict on all of the counts.
Count three was the illegal campaign contributions from Bunny Mallon, as I mentioned. Of the five other counts, one was a conspiracy count, one related to illegal campaign contributions from Bunny Mallon, the 101-year-old donor from Virginia, from 2007. There were a couple of counts about campaign contributions from Fred Baron. He was a wealthy attorney from Dallas who was a big Edwards supporter. He has since passed away, since all of this played out. And there was one count pertaining to filing illegal campaign finance reports with the FEC. So, they were deadlocked on all of them except for that one count relating to Bunny Mallon.
BLOCK: Well, Jeff, describe the reaction in the courtroom as this verdict came in.
TIBERII: As it came in, it was relatively calm. Shortly thereafter, the one image to kind of take from that moment was Edwards' elderly parents, Bobbie and Wallace, just squeezing his hand, really squeezing his hand when that not guilty was read. Right after the judge went to recess a few minutes later, he turned around, big hug for Kate, big hug for both of his parents. Turned to the lead defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, kind of squeezed his shoulders and his neck and Abbe looked back - and he didn't know it was John Edwards at first - looked back and he just said, come here. And he stood up and he gave him a big hug. And it was, you know, a series of hugs at that point.
And then, interesting, the media leaning in and really trying to get anything they could from Bobbie and Wallace, trying to get them to make some kind of statement. And his father just pointed to his smile and says, this says it all, and left it at that.
BLOCK: The question now for prosecutors, Jeff, briefly, is do they pursue a retrial on the counts on which the jury deadlocked.
TIBERII: Right, Melissa, and I think that's a longshot. This was an iffy, tough case to try to begin with. They didn't win it, they didn't come close to winning it - deadlocked on five counts and an acquittal on the sixth. And I think, I do not expect to see this case retried. But, again, you never know.
BLOCK: Okay, Jeff Tiberii of North Carolina Public Radio in Greensboro. Thanks so much.
TIBERII: Thanks, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.