WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice said Wednesday that it would not retry John Edwards, the former US senator whose six-week trial on corruption charges ended earlier this month with an acquittal on one count and a mistrial on five others.
“In the interest of justice, we have decided not to retry Edwards on those counts,’’ Lanny A. Breuer, of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement.
Edwards was charged with campaign-finance violations in his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The trial, held in Greensboro, N.C., focused on money given to Edwards by two wealthy friends, Rachel Mellon and Fred Baron, totaling more than $1 million.
The government said the donations - used in large part to hide an extramarital affair that Edwards was having - were campaign contributions. Edwards called them gifts. The result was a trial steeped in tabloid detail that focused not just on the arcana of campaign finance law but also on such issues as the precise timing of the fertility cycle of Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, with whom Edwards conceived a child.
In his statement, Breuer defended the decision to bring Edwards to trial in the first place.
“We knew that this case - like all campaign finance cases - would be challenging,’’ he said. “But it is our duty to bring hard cases when we believe that the facts and the law support charging a candidate for high office with a crime.’’
The government “put forward its best case against Mr. Edwards,’’ Breuer said, but the jurors made their decision, and “we respect their judgment.’’
Judge Catherine C. Eagles of US District Court, accepting the government’s request, granted an order for dismissal of the remaining charges.
Edwards’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, said: “While John has repeatedly admitted to his sins, he has also consistently asserted, as we demonstrated at the trial, that he did not violate any campaign law nor even imagined that any campaign laws could apply. We are confident that the outcome of any new trial would have been the same. We are very glad that, after living under this cloud for over three years, John and his family can have their lives back and enjoy the peace they deserve.’’