June 1, 2012 / 12:42 AM / 8 years ago

Jurors say evidence fell short in Edwards' campaign money trial

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Three jurors who acquitted former U.S. Senator John Edwards on one count of taking illegal campaign money for his failed 2008 presidential bid said on Friday there was not enough evidence to convict him of five related federal charges.

A mistrial was declared on those five counts on Thursday after the 12-member jury in Greensboro, North Carolina, said it was deadlocked on its ninth day of deliberation.

Three of the jurors, including the foreman, said on NBC’s “Today” show they believed Edwards was guilty of at least some of the charges brought against him by the government.

Edwards, 58, was accused of masterminding a plot to funnel more than $900,000 from two wealthy supporters to conceal his pregnant mistress from his cancer-stricken wife and voters during his bid to win the Democratic nomination four years ago.

“I think he definitely had some knowledge of the money, where the money was going,” said juror Ladonna Foster.

“But he was just smart enough to hide it,” said juror Cindy Aquaro, later adding, “The evidence just was not there for us to prove guilt.”

Jury foreman David Recchion said the government’s case took a hit due to the lack of credibility of its chief witness, ex-campaign aide Andrew Young, who once falsely claimed paternity of the child Edwards had fathered with Rielle Hunter.

The defense showed that Young made inconsistent statements, benefited financially from a tell-all book about Edwards’ affair and pocketed more than $1 million from the cover-up.

“I think unfortunately that was probably the key part of the miss for the prosecution,” Recchion said of Young’s testimony.

The jurors said emotions sometimes ran high as the deliberations dragged out, but they started each day with calmness and tried to put their personal feelings about Edwards’ character aside.

“We actually prayed together as a group,” Recchion said.

A law enforcement source said late Thursday that Justice Department prosecutors were unlikely to retry Edwards, but no final decision had been made.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Foster said she thought the government should try again, while Aquaro said she did not think the first trial was money well spent.

But juror Recchion said the campaign finance law itself was flawed. “I think there needs to be some change in campaign finance law before you go through this process, and kind of nailing down what really is and what really isn’t a campaign contribution.”

Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jackie Frank

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