The failure of federal prosecutors May 31 to win guilty verdicts against former Democratic Presidential contender John Edwards on campaign violations illustrates the Justice Department’s ongoing arrogance and incompetence in politically sensitive cases.
The Justice Department’s crusade to imprison Edwards for up to 30 years on highly dubious charges showed poor judgment when the relevant campaign finance law is so murky. And now a federal jury empaneled in North Carolina has agreed by rendering an acquittal on one charge and no decision on the remaining five counts. The mistrial continues an extraordinary series of defeats and controversial results for the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, an elite unit that is supposed to preserve public trust in government by prevailing against the nation’s most corrupt officials in the most important cases.
As in recent high-profile cases stretching from Alabama to Alaska over the past four years, the unit has again humiliated itself, needlessly hurt defendants and wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Edwards is at right in a file photo from his term as a North Carolina senator before his current disgrace for cheating on his ailing wife, fathering an illegitimate daughter and trying to hide his affair.
“To pick this kind of case and spend tens of millions of dollars to prosecute a failed presidential candidate just doesn’t make any sense to me,” commented Bush-appointed former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner. A Republican, he is now a partner at the powerhouse Washington law firm of Wiley Rein. “I’m not a fan of John Edwards or his underlying conduct,” Toner continued, “but I never thought it was a violation of the federal election laws, let alone a criminal violation.” Among others denouncing the Edwards prosecution as ill-conceived have been campaign finance lawyer Brett Kappel, who said the verdict was no surprise because “it was a difficult legal theory to prove.” Another is Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who published a column, Edwards’ Jury Couldn’t Decide and for Good Reason.
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