Even if John Edwards is guilty of campaign finance corruption charges — and the government’s case certainly convinced me he is — I still say let him go.
But the former golden boy's lawyers will argue that while his behavior was conniving and arrogant, it was not precisely criminal. He wasn’t trying to cheat the electoral system; he was trying to cheat on his wife.
Either way, his actions were indefensible, of course. His lies, manipulations, abuse of friendships and loyalties — not to mention the casualness with which he made a mockery of the democratic process by which America elects its leaders — were all spectacularly stupid and selfish.
But a prison term would not be a deterrent to recidivism by Edwards; his political career is over. Nor would a jail sentence for the failed candidate prevent future campaign finance abusers from committing similar acts any more than the humiliation of the trial already has.
He is a laughingstock to conservatives, and a deep embarrassment to progressives. He long ago disappointed his wife, his parents and his children. He has humiliated himself professionally, personally and spiritually.
Perhaps worst for him, he has not ended up in the arms of the woman he risked everything to be with. Edwards’s clandestine romance with Rielle Hunter and its messy aftermath must have been very stressful for the couple. Apparently their path to true love was a dead end.
Letting him go home to his three minor children may not be the prosecutor’s idea of the correct verdict, but I hope that's how the case against Edwards is resolved. After the spectacle of the prosecution's parade of witnesses (and whatever more testimony we have yet to hear in his defense) poetic justice will still have been served.
Bonnie Goldstein is not a lawyer, judge or jury member, but you can follow her Twitter feed at @KickedByAnAngel.