Jurors: Evidence elusive in Edwards case
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – Several jurors in the John Edwards corruption case said Friday that they thought the two-time Democratic presidential hopeful was a liar, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of breaking campaign finance laws.
“We actually wished there would be more evidence, and that we would … be able to follow the evidence to John Edwards,” Ladonna Foster told CNN on Friday night. “But that wasn’t the case.”
Foster, Cindy Aquaro and jury foreman David Recchion all said they believed Edwards was guilty on some of the six charges he faced during his trial. Yet their 12-person jury on Thursday only reached a unanimous verdict on one count, in which they cleared Edwards, while deadlocking on the rest after more than 50 hours of deliberation.
The U.S. Justice Department is determining how to proceed with the case, including possibly calling for a retrial.
Edwards ran for president in 2004 — when he ended up as the Democrats’ nominee for vice president — and again in 2008.
Prosecutors said Edwards “knowingly and willingly” took nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions from Fred Baron and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to keep Hunter out of the public eye, then concealed the donations by filing false and misleading campaign disclosure reports, to keep his pregnant mistress under wraps in his last presidential run.
He was charged with four counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions, one count of falsifying documents and one of conspiring to receive and conceal the contributions, which could have led to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine if convicted on all counts.
His attorneys argued he was guilty of being a bad husband to his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 2010, but had committed no crime. They also argued that former Edwards aide Andrew Young, the government’s star witness, used the contributions for his own gain and to pay for the medical expenses of the mistress, Rielle Hunter, to hide the affair from Edwards’ wife.
Neither Edwards, Hunter, nor either of the two donors whose funds were in question testified during the trial. Baron died in 2008, while Mellon — who gave Edwards the bulk of the money — is now 101.
“I wished we could have heard from … Bunny Mellon,” said Aquaro. “I think we would have been able to follow the money more if we had.”
Aquaro added that she believed Edwards intended the money from those two donors would go to pay Hunter and her expenses, but “the evidence was not there to prove it.”
Foster said earlier on NBC’s “Today” show that she thinks Edwards was particularly knowledgeable about the Mellon money.
Other jurors interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday said they weren’t convinced that the money was given for political reasons.
Jonathan Nunn said it wasn’t even a close call.
“In my eyes, it was all personal,” he said. “It was pretty weighed one way.”
Theresa Fuller said the “evidence just wasn’t there.”
Sheila Lockwood said she wanted to hear Edwards talk about the money that he received “on his behalf.” Edwards chose not to testify.
Asked what weakened the prosecution’s case, Recchion pointed to Young and his credibility.
“The government had a tough job to do with a witness that wasn’t credible as was needed to be, in order to prove (Edwards’) guilt,” he said Friday.
As to Edwards himself, several jurors said they’d wished he took the stand. Yet they did hear his voice in the form of a 2008 interview with ABC’s Bob Woodruff in which he admitted having an affair with Hunter but didn’t father her child.
“I definitely thought he was a good liar,” said Aquaro.
Asked whether the case should be retried, several jurors instead said they hoped campaign finance laws be changed first — so that there is more clarity for politicians and potential jurors alike.
“I would like to see some changes made so that future candidates understand that these activities are unacceptable,” Recchion said.
Leaving the court Thursday, Edwards said that while he never believed he committed a crime, “I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong, and there is no one else responsible for my sins.”
He thanked his family for supporting him, adding that “I’m grateful for all my children” — including Cate, who sat through the trial with him, 12-year-old Jack, 14-year-old Emma and the 4-year-old girl from his affair, whom he called “my precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you can ever imagine.”
Edwards had denied that he was the girl’s father for more than a year — including in the ABC interview — saying the affair was over before Hunter became pregnant.
Hunter has been largely silent publicly, though she’ll present her account of what happened with the release of her memoir — entitled “What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter and Me” — on June 26 through publisher BenBella Books, her representative RoseMarie Terenzio said Friday in a statement.
“A lot has been said, but no one has heard the truth of what really happened until now,” BenBella publisher Glenn Yeffeth said.