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Justice Department: No new trial for Edwards

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May 31, 2012: Former presidential candidate John Edwards speaks outside a federal courthouse as his daughter, Cate Edwards, left, and father Wallace Edwards, listen after his campaign finance fraud case ended in a mistrial, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP/File)

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it will not retry John Edwards, two weeks after a federal judge declared a mistrial in his high-profile corruption case. 

The department formally abandoned its prosecution of the former Democratic presidential candidate by filing an "order for dismissal" earlier Wednesday in U.S. District Court in North Carolina. The motion dismissed the remaining five counts against Edwards on which the jury had been deadlocked. Edwards was already found not guilty on one other count. 

In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said the government has decided not to retry Edwards "in the interest of justice." He defended his department's decision to prosecute the case, though. 

"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.  

"Last month, the government put forward its best case against Mr. Edwards, and I am proud of the skilled and professional way in which our prosecutors ... conducted this trial. The jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on five of the six counts of the indictment, however, and we respect their judgment."

The decision was welcomed by Edwards' attorneys, Abbe Lowell and Allison Van Laningham and Alan Duncan.

"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," the attorneys said in a joint written statement. "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.

Judge Catherine Eagles declared a mistrial two weeks ago after the jury was unable to reach a verdict on most of the counts alleging Edwards accepted illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors had tried to prove that hush money sent to his mistress by wealthy donors during the 2008 presidential campaign constituted illegal donations. 

Edwards' lawyers, though, claimed all along that the money was meant to help hide his affair from his wife Elizabeth, who has since died of cancer, and not from voters. 

Edwards said after the trial that while he doesn't believe he did anything illegal, "I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong."