GREENSBORO, NC (RNN) - A North Carolina jury found former presidential hopeful John Edwards not guilty of one out of six counts in his federal corruption trial Thursday. The judge in the case declared a mistrial after the jury failed to return a verdict on the remaining five charges.
Edwards was found not guilty of misusing campaign funds donated by wealthy benefactor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. The former senator was accused of using almost $1 million in campaign contributions to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter.
Edwards addressed the media shortly after the verdict was announced, thanking the jury, his supporters and all five of his children.
"Thank you for the jurors and their incredibly hard work, and their diligence. They took their job very, very seriously," Edwards said. "Thank goodness that we live in a country that has the kind of system we have. This jury is exemplary of what juries are supposed to do."
He named all five children by name: Emma Claire, Jack, Cate, his deceased son, Wade; and Frances Quinn, his child with former mistress Rielle Hunter.
"And then finally, my precious Quinn, whom I love more than any of you could ever imagine," he said. "I am so grateful for Quinn."
Edwards was charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of falsifying campaign statements and four counts of accepting contributions that exceeded legal limits. He faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Judge Catherine C. Eagles ordered the jury back into deliberations earlier in the afternoon after jurors emerged to say they had reached a unanimous verdict on Count 3, but had not reached a decision on the other five counts.
Defense attorneys asked Eagles to declare a mistrial on the remaining counts.
The trial came to a conclusion nine days after the jury received the case. Deliberations began May 18 after 17 days of testimony that at times resembled the plot of a soap opera more than a criminal trial.
At once time during deliberations, the jury showed apparently inappropriate behavior by wearing matching clothing, suggesting they were assembling in secret groups.
A key witness in the case was former aide Andrew Young, who admitted to taking money from secret donations meant to hide Hunter and using them to build his own $1.6 million dream home.
Defense attorneys argued Edwards had no knowledge of the mishandling of money and other misdeeds, and he was only guilty of being a horrible husband to his wife, Elizabeth, who was battling cancer at the time of the affair.
Upon his acquittal, Edwards reiterated he felt he had done nothing illegal.
"I wanna make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while I do not believe I did anything illegal and never thought I did anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong," Edwards said after the verdict was announced. "And there is no one else responsible for my sins."
Records and testimony show that wealthy benefactor Rachel "Bunny" Melon donated about $750,000 to the Edwards campaign. Other financing came from Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas lawyer who served as Edwards' campaign finance chairman.
According to evidence in the case, Luxury hotels, $400,000 in cash and a rental mansion in Santa Barbara, CA, (at $20,000 a month) were provided by Baron to help cover up the affair between Edwards and Hunter.
Edwards' defense attorneys argued that the former candidate did not know taking the money was illegal.
There was plenty of inflammatory testimony in the trial, including Young's claim that he feared for his life, worried that Edwards had hired a gunman to kill him; as well as his admission that he claimed Hunter's child as his own to hide Edwards' affair.
Andrew Young's wife, Cheri, testified she knew about the money, but not what it was for. She also said John Edwards convinced the Youngs take the pregnant Hunter into their home.
Neither John Edwards nor Rielle Hunter took the stand during the trial.
A low point in the testimony came when it was revealed that a very distraught Elizabeth Edwards ripped her shirt open on an airplane tarmac after she learned of the 2007 National Enquirer story about the affair.
Harrison Hickman, a Democratic pollster and strategist, testified that her reaction was "volcanic."
Young's book reports – and others witnessed - that Elizabeth Edwards ripped open her blouse and yelled, "Look at me!"
Elizabeth Edwards died of breast cancer Dec. 7, 2010.
"I don't think God's through with me," John Edwards said Thursday. "What I'm hopeful about, all those kids that I've seen in the poorest parts of this country, and the poorest parts of this world, that I can still help them."
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