The John Edwards trial jury got it almost right today when it found the former U.S. senator from North Carolina not guilty on one charge and declared themselves deadlocked on the rest -- prompting a federal judge to declare a mistrial. The only more appropriate verdict would have been not guilty findings on all the other charges.
While I am not normally one to jump to the defense of someone who engaged in porcine behavior, even John Edwards deserved a fair trial that keeps him out of prison. Pigs deserve justice, too.
The trial was an absurdity from the start. If anyone is guilty of anything, it is the bad decision making by the person or people in the federal government who decided to prosecute this case. If elected officials made the call, impeachment is in order. If non-elected federal prosecutors made the decision, they should be relieved of duty immediately. The wastes of time and taxpayer dollars were ridiculous. Note to the Feds: Try worrying more about violent crime and the economy, less about who's sleeping together.
Here's what John Edwards did: By his own admission, he did an awful lot of bad. That's not a crime.
Edwards obviously cheated on his wife, fostered a child out of wedlock and let rich friends pay hush money to keep the child's mother quiet. The question of whether he knew his friends were footing such a bill is moot. He didn't commit a crime even if he did know. Federal prosecutors brought baseless charges that Edwards violated campaign finance laws.
One gaping hole in that theory that should have stopped the trial before it started?
Even the Federal Election Commission determined Edwards violated no campaign finance laws. It plainly stated that the hush money paid to keep Edwards' mistress quiet did not constitute a campaign contribution. Apparently, the prosecution was baffled by the complex legal construct that if someone doesn't give money to a campaign, it's not a campaign contribution! Change campaign laws if you think that will stop Democratic and Republican big money from getting around contribution limits but there is no law preventing anyone from paying for a mistress to stay quiet about the identity of a child's father.
If the ever-anal FEC determined Edwards did nothing illegal, it makes no sense that another arm of the federal government thought he did. (Nor did it make sense that U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles barred the jury from learning about the FEC's findings. Shame on the judge.)
As many including Edwards have said, the once-promising pol committed many acts of appalling behavior -- sins if you will -- but he did not break laws.
That of course didn't stop Republican insiders like David Frum from leaping on CNN to declare that the trial result puts the presidency and elections at all levels in great peril. Imagine, Frum said, that if Edwards had been elected president, he would have been beholden to his rich friends who paid his mistress the hush money.
Like all modern presidents aren't beholden to the big dollars that put them in office in one way or another. There's no difference between the influence that Edwards' donors Fred Baron and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon would have had on a Democratic president than what oil and gas industry titans have on Republican presidents. Each of the two old political parties -- equally useless in my eyes -- have long lists of big donors and big organizations that put them in office because we the people don't do enough to replace them with better parties and better people.
Before GOP hypocrites like Frum start ruing any days and trying to score political points on the back of a properly humiliated Democrat, they should look at the facts of this case: John Edwards is a pig -- and it is not illegal to be a pig.
We the people should not have had to foot the bill for federal prosecutors who thought it was.