The mistrial declaration in John Edwards’ campaign finance case was a new setback for the Justice Department's public integrity section, a once-vaunted watchdog that has been trying to rebuild itself after its botched prosecution of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens four years ago, says the New York Times. A jury acquitted Edwards of one charge and failed to reach a verdict on five others. It was the second time this year that one of the section's high-profile prosecutions has collapsed. In March, a jury acquitted defendants charged in connection with an alleged bribery and corruption scheme involving an effort to legalize some forms of gambling there.
The two failed cases were the most nationally visible efforts in recent years by the public integrity section, which was criticized in 2012 after closing out, with bringing charges in a series of investigations of current or former members of Congress, including Senator John Ensign of Nevada and Representatives Tom DeLay of Texas, Jerry Lewis of California, Allan B. Mollohan of West Virginia and Don Young of Alaska. The unit's performance has been faulted by nonprofit groups that seek to limit the influence of money in politics.