The jury in the federal campaign finance trial of former U.S. presidential candidate John Edwards reached a verdict on one of six counts after almost two weeks of deliberations in Greensboro, North Carolina.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ordered the panel to continue deliberating on the remaining charges without disclosing its decision on the one count. On that charge, the government alleged that in 2008 Edwards knowingly accepted more money from campaign donor Rachel “Bunny” Mellon than was allowed by law.
“I’m not asking you to give up your conscientious conviction whether the defendant is guilty or innocent,” Eagles told jurors before sending them back to deliberate.
Edwards, a Democrat, was indicted in June 2010 following a two-year investigation. He’s charged with illegally using almost $1 million in campaign contributions from Mellon and Fred Baron, a now-deceased trial attorney, to conceal his extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter. A former U.S. senator from North Carolina, vice presidential candidate in 2004 and presidential contender in 2008, he faces as long as five years in prison if convicted on any of the six counts.
“It’s not surprising that they are splitting on the verdict, because the case is about splitting hairs on whether the money was being used to fool a wife or to fool the election committee,” said Roy Futterman, a jury consultant with DOAR Litigation Consulting. “Jurors may decide either way depending on how they see Edwards as a man.”
Eagles told jurors to send a note if they still can’t reach a decision. Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Edwards, argued that Eagles should accept the verdict on one count and declare a mistrial on the remaining counts. There was no indication the jury had stalled in deliberations, Lowell said.
“Usually you get other notes first but this was truncated into one moment,” Lowell said.
Eagles initially told lawyers that the jury had reached a verdict on all counts. There’s no consensus on the remaining counts, jurors told Eagles.
The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 11-00161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).