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May 31, 2012

Edwards jury gets Allen charge on five counts ... UPDATE: Acquitted on one count; mistrial on others

John Edwards has to be feeling pretty good about the jury's work today, as it seems a hung jury on most of the counts he is facing is now appearing even more likely.  This AP article provides the latest news:

The ninth day of deliberations in John Edwards' campaign fraud trial took a bizarre turn Thursday when the judge mistakenly believed the jurors had reached a verdict on all six counts. Instead, the jury told the judge they had a unanimous decision on only one charge, and the panel was sent back to the jury room for more talks....

The jury reached a verdict on one count of illegal campaign contributions involving Mellon, but their decision was not announced.  Edwards appeared happy and smiled at his family. His attorneys argued for a mistrial on the other counts and they asked for the verdict to be announced.

It was not read, and U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles told the jurors to keep deliberating.  She apologized for calling them into the courtroom and then sending them back for more discussions.  "I was obviously under the impression you had reached a verdict on all six counts," Eagles said.

The judge read the jury the Allen Charge, encouraging them to reconsider their positions and deliberate further. But she said it's possible they may not be able to come to a unanimous decision on the other counts.   "If that's so, that's so," Eagles said....

The jury has made more news in recent days of the trial, as Eagles has closed the court to discuss unspecified issues with jurors.  Four alternate jurors began wearing matching colored shirts to court and one of them was said to be exchanging smiles with Edwards. Eagles told the alternates on Wednesday that they no longer needed to come to court during deliberations.

UPDATE:  As now reported in this CBS News piece, there will be not sentencing proceeding for John Edwards anytime soon (and maybe not at all): " After 9 days of deliberation, a jury has found John Edwards not guilty on one of six charges of campaign finance corruption brought against him. A mistrial has been declared on the other five counts."

I will be somewhat disappointed if the feds decide to spend the federal resources (borrowed from China, as candidate Mitt Romney likes to remind us) needed to pursue a retrial on all these counts, but I would not put it past them.

May 31, 2012 at 04:12 PM | Permalink


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We might just as well paste in this spot a re-run of the Blago mistrial threads, when we were assured the government was just tilting at windmills and should give it a rest because, hey, look, boys will be boys.

And where is Mr. Blago today?

The amazing thing is that Blago looks like Mr. Nicey by comparison.

P.S. I have to agree, however, that the administration would be better off putting the borrowed (from China) funds into something productive like Solyndra.


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 31, 2012 6:57:46 PM

The case against Blago was more solid, because they had him on tape. He was a good old-fashioned corrupt Chicago politician. In contrast, although Edwards is a disgusting person, the criminal case against him was incredibly weak -- dependent, as I understand it, on a theory the government had never used to prosecute anyone before.

Whatever the merits of the case may be, many people find the whole campaign finance regime useless. Send the FEC and its enabling legislation to the wood-chipper.

Edwards, in the meantime, is politically ruined, which strikes me as punishment enough. How many millions were wasted on prosecuting him, and how many millions more would be wasted on a second round?

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | May 31, 2012 7:38:47 PM

Marc --

"Whatever the merits of the case may be, many people find the whole campaign finance regime useless."


At least Obama has pledged not to use any Super Pacs.


That they had Blago on tape apparently did not, in his first jury's view, make it a more solid case. A hung count is a hung count, there and here.

One thing I would want to know if I'm making the re-prosecution decision is what the vote was on the five mistried counts. To my knowledge, that is not yet known.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 31, 2012 7:53:01 PM

Barack Obama orders due-process-free assassinations of American citizens. (See the New York Times over the last couple days.) George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Yoo caused people to be tortured. (See the 8-year criminal regime that was the Bush presidency.)

And, this Bill Otis clown seems to be cool with the ridiculous federal government spending tens of millioins of dollars on a lame case like this Edwards case.

Bill Otis is the problem.

Posted by: Vince Wright | May 31, 2012 8:03:18 PM

From Salon:

Thursday, May 31, 2012 01:34 PM PDT

Justice for John Edwards

I worked for him briefly -- and the FBI asked me about his case. Why I'm glad he's not going to jail

By Amanda Marcotte

Few things are more disconcerting than answering your door wearing shorts and a tank top and finding be-suited FBI agents sticking badges in your face and asking to speak to you about a former, remarkably brief job you held three years prior. As soon as the agents dropped the name “John Edwards,” I figured that no matter what this was about, I might as well let them in and be as cooperative as possible. After a few questions about my two weeks on the campaign, it became obvious to everyone in the room that they were wasting their time with me because I had literally no information whatsoever about the campaign’s finances, much less any potential financial irregularities, leaving me nearly apologizing to them as I let them out of the apartment 10 minutes later. All I could do after such a weird event was to hop on chat to tell a friend, “Huh, I think maybe John Edwards is in trouble for campaign finance law violations.”

It all seemed very serious to me at the time, which is why I was astonished when the charges finally emerged. It seemed that federal prosecutors desperately wanted to find a way to legally punish Edwards for adultery, and their only hope of doing that was to reclassify hush money paid by private Edwards supporters directly to Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young as a campaign contributions, even though the money didn’t go to the campaign and “hush money for mistresses” has never before been treated like a traditional campaign expense. Luckily, the jury seems to have seen through the ruse, finding Edwards not guilty of one charge, and drawing a mistrial on the rest.

With the news of Karl Rove crowing about how he intends to spend $1 billion in untraceable funds to beat Obama in 2012, it looks particularly ridiculous for the government to waste resources on a showboat prosecution. Even the conservative news magazine National Review had to denounce the prosecution as a waste. John Edwards has been disgraced, humiliated and run out of politics. Bringing the full force of the law down on him on top of it all just seems greedy.

It’s become customary in politically obsessed circles for observers to preen about how they knew that Edwards was bad news all along. His lawyerly ways! His sentimental stories about growing up working class! His hair! How could his silly supporters not see him for the philandering phony he so clearly was?

Of course, a quick perusal of the John Edwards of 2007 demonstrates that this sort of hindsight owes more to revisionist wishful thinking than a correct assessment of the evidence at the time. Back then, the other potential Democratic nominees, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were widely and correctly perceived as timid centrists who had a knee-jerk tendency to run from conflict the second conservatives ruffled their feathers. Edwards, on the other hand, spoke convincingly of how change couldn’t come from “negotiation and compromise,” arguing that the idea that corporate interests would voluntarily give away their power is “a fantasy.” Long before the economic crash and Occupy Wall Street forced major Democratic politicians to address the question of growing inequality, Edwards’s famous “two Americas” rhetoric helped force the issue onto the table. Occupy boiled it down to the 1 Percent vs. the 99 Percent, but back in 2007, Edwards was taking cracks at “the very rich vs. everyone else.”

In the rush of headlines about Edwards’s despicable sexual behavior, what’s forgotten is how much his campaign haunted the primary contest between Clinton and Obama long after he dropped out. An early push in the campaign season from Edwards on healthcare reform set the tone for the rest of the election season on this issue. Edwards put out a plan for healthcare reform before the other candidates, forcing the other candidates to release competing plans that were likelier farther to the left than they were comfortable promising. It’s arguable that without the primary season pressure from the Edwards campaign, the initial gambit of the Democrats in the healthcare reform battle — one that included a public option — wouldn’t have been as strong, which would have meant an even weaker bill than the one that eventually was pushed past conservative Democratic opposition.

Because of this, no one was hurt worse by the revelation that Edwards was cheating on his well-loved wife than his most ardent supporters. If he’d been outed sooner, he would have destroyed not just his own candidacy but all the hard work in getting income inequality and progressive health care reform into the 2008 campaign. For those who take those issues very seriously, this felt less like a boneheaded mistake and more like a betrayal.

But being weak-willed and disappointing your supporters can’t be treated like a crime, or else most of D.C. should be yanked from their cocktail parties and tossed into the clink. Even those who’ll never be able to forgive Edwards for nearly destroying his legacy should be grateful for the good sense shown by the jury today. Let’s hope the Justice Department takes their lead and lets this one go.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and journalist. She's published two books and blogs regularly at Pandagon, RH Reality Check and Slate's Double X.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | May 31, 2012 8:20:03 PM

Vince Wright --

If you had any public standing, I would pay good money to be condemned by someone with your attitude, but why buy the cow when I can get the milk for free?

Keep posting! Please!!

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 31, 2012 8:37:46 PM

At least Obama has pledged not to use any Super Pacs.


I think the Super Pacs should be legal. Better yet, allow unlimited donations to the campaigns themselves, thereby making most of the Pacs redundant.

Obama, of course, favors a return to the pre-Citizens United regime. I disagree with him on that, but as long as the law allows the Pacs, it would be suicide for one party to unilaterally play by the old rules. It is not a contradiction to play by the same set of rules as your opponent, while believing the rules ought to be different.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | May 31, 2012 9:55:33 PM

no offense bill but LET'S BE REAL!

ANYONE can get a conviction against ANYONE

IF they are willing to spend the time and money to do it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER

Sooner or later you either get a set of people dragged in to be in the jury who just say FUCK IT and convice just to get done!

or you end up with just the ASLEEP SHEEPLE who have no clue had bad the govt has been lieing to them for DECADES and swallow the gov't's BULL SHIT and convict!

sorry last time i looked in any case between a CITIZEN and the state the BURDON OF PROOF is on the state!

in my book a mystrial or aquital are just that FAILURE AT THE BURDON OF PROOF! or YOU WOULD HAVE YOUR CONVICTION!

there for GAME OVER!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 1, 2012 1:41:17 AM

Marc --

"...as the law allows the Pacs, it would be suicide for one party to unilaterally play by the old rules."

Of course Obama knew that when he pledged not to use the Pacs, but he pledged it nonetheless to strike the usual pose of high-mindedness.

"It is not a contradiction to play by the same set of rules as your opponent, while believing the rules ought to be different."

It's a contradiction when you've gone high camp about how you're too darn good to be playing by those supposedly unworthy rules.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 1, 2012 2:58:03 AM

"John Edwards has been disgraced, humiliated and run out of politics. Bringing the full force of the law down on him on top of it all just seems greedy."

In a word...

Posted by: Guy | Jun 1, 2012 2:59:04 AM

This is a bit hinky.


"whole campaign finance regime useless"

Not really. There still are prosecutions made and this one wouldn't have been defunct if CU was applied. It wasn't a corporation etc.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 1, 2012 10:56:17 PM

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