John Edwards is cleared over ‘sexpenses’allegations

DISGRACED former United States’ senator John Edwards has hinted at a return to politics after a mistrial in a case alleging his misuse of campaign funds.

• John Edwards suggests he may return to public office after being acquitted of illegaly directing campaign contributions for

• Edwards had been accused of directing funds to woman with whom he was having an affair while his wife was ill with breast cancer

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• Jurors admit that they thought Democrat was guilty, lamenting insufficient evidence to convict

• Key prosecution witnesses ‘lacked credibility’

The one-time presidential candidate said he believed he still had a role to play in public life following his acquittal on one charge of illegally directing contributions and no verdict being reached on five other counts at his trial in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“I really believe God thinks there’s still some good things I can do,” said Mr Edwards, 58, who was already damaged by his covering up of an extramarital affair with in which he fathered an illegitimate daughter.

Mr Edwards made a veiled admission, typical of a US politician seeking a return to office.

“While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there is no one else is responsible for my sins,” he said.

Legal experts and other jurors pointed to lack of credibility of a key prosecution witness, Mr Edwards’ former aide Andrew Young. Prosecutors alleged Young and wife Cheri personally received campaign contributions intended to underpin Mr Edwards’ run for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential election, but instead used the funds to pay rent and living expenses for the politician’s pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Mr Edwards kept his wife Elizabeth, who was fighting breast cancer and who died in 2010, in the dark about his affair with the blonde filmmaker. Mr Young later claimed publicly, then denied, he was the father of Ms Hunter’s daughter Quinn, born in February 2008, then cashed in on the scandal by writing a best-selling book on his experiences.

Speculation over Mr Edwards’ future came as US Justice Department sources hinted it would not seek a retrial, and jurors in the case explained why they emerged deadlocked from nine days of deliberations.

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“I think he had some knowledge of where the money was going [but] the evidence wasn’t there,’’ juror Ladonna Foster, said. Another, Cindu Aquaro, said: “He was just smart enough to hide it. I think he was guilty, but the evidence just was not there for us to prove guilt.”

Legal experts and other jurors pointed to lack of credibility of Mr Young.

“I think the credibility of the witness was something that was of utmost importance to us,” the jury foreman, David Recchion, said.“I think, unfortunately, that was probably the key part of the miss for the prosecution.”

A succession of other witnesses testified against Mr Edwards during the six-week trial as the prosecution tried and failed to prove he was aware of the illegal channelling of funds, including a $1 million (£650,000) donation from Virginia heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon.

But Mr Edwards’ public reputation was already in tatters before the trial because of his treatment of his sick wife and conduct over the affair, observers say. Chris Cillizza, a political analyst for the Washington Post, said he believed Edwards was too damaged to have any hope of a comeback despite the acquittal and mistrial.

“The public wanted to exact a measure of revenge on Edwards,” he blogged. “Edwards had already seen his future political ambitions destroyed. There was very little left to take from Edwards but his moral crimes were such that many people hoped that the jury would try to do it.”

Mr Edwards was near to tears when judge Catherine Eagles announced the collapse of the trial and discharged the jury.

He put a finger to his lip and turned and smiled at his daughter Cate in the public gallery. He later thanked her for her support and also paid tribute to daughter Quinn, four, on the courthouse steps.