Edwards day in court

First Posted: 4/12/2012

John Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina who came oh so close to being this nation’s vice president, believes his trial that begins today on alleged campaign finance violations offers him a shot at redemption.

We say no. While Edwards’ fall might not yet be complete, he is beyond rehabilitation, and a not-guilty verdict only means that convict can’t be added to liar, adulterer, narcissist and empty suit when characterizing the former trial lawyer.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign finance watchdog group, is no fan of Edwards, but is skeptical that charges can be proven that he misdirected $1 million in contributions to hide the mother of his out-of-wedlock child while he tried to win the White House — an affair that began and continued while Edwards’ wife battled cancer that would eventually kill her.

“In the United States, we don’t prosecute people for being loathsome, we prosecute them for violating the law,” Sloan told the Associated Press. “The real reason for these payments is obvious: To prevent Mr. Edwards’ cancer-stricken wife from finding out about the affair. This makes him despicable, but not a criminal.”

Edwards, who turned down a plea arrangement that included an offer of six months in jail and retaining his law license, now faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. But he is confident: “After all these years, I finally get my day in court and people get to hear my side of this, and what actually happened,” Edwards said last year. “And what I know with complete and absolute certainty is I didn’t violate campaign laws and I never for a second believed I was violating campaign laws.”

Edwards should know the law; he manipulated it well enough while suing doctors and medical centers to enrich himself and clients, but also took health care from people whose physicians could no longer afford the cost of insurance needed to practice. He was able to convince jurors that obstetricians could be blamed for a newborn’s cerebral palsy, and psychiatrists could be at fault for a client’s suicide.

His wealth, fame and good looks pushed Edwards further than it ever should have politically, making him twice a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination for president even though no one in this state can name a single legislative achievement that he crafted during his four years in Congress.

Edwards opted for a trial by jury, fondly remembering how well that smile and $1,250 haircut helped sway jurors previously when they were fed junk science. This time, however, Edwards might have an even better ally in court — the law.