In this prosecution, a major figure in the Democratic Party had been brought down and, as it turns out, a Republican U.S. Attorney with political ambitions of his own has used this high-profile case to his personal benefit, the Edwards defense team said.
Holding has declined to comment on the Edwards case.
Defenders of the Edwards indictment note that it was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice during a Democratic administration. Edwards attorneys said in court that the department had little choice but to approve what Holding initiated. They said top Obama administration officials would have been skewered as being partisan if they did not move forward with the case.
Holdings campaign did defend the cost of the prosecution in the May primary race when his GOP opponent, Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble, called Edwards prosecution political. Holding has campaigned on his willingness to investigate alleged corruption by Edwards and another prominent North Carolina Democrat, former Gov. Mike Easley.
I think there is no question that Holding thought those two cases would take him to Congress, Coble said.
At the time Holdings campaign strategist, Carter Wrenn issued a statement calling Cobles remarks bizarre.
But now Holdings Democratic opponent in the 13th District is joining the debate.
It seems like it was a stretch to convict him, as we see now, said Charles Malone. I dont think it was the best use of taxpayer money.
An aggressive theory
Bruce Reinhart, a former federal prosecutor in southern Florida and a former trial attorney in the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Justice Department, said he did not think the government was necessarily wrong to seek the charges.
That being said, I think there were a number of good reasons not to bring the case, Reinhart said.
The government used an aggressive legal theory, he said, and to push the envelope on something like this was a bit aggressive.
There were civil remedies available to test the case and punish the conduct just as publicly, he said.
Reinhart puts no stock in the allegations that the Edwards case was a politically motivated prosecution. He said cases of that ilk are thoroughly scrubbed for such abuse.
I can tell you categorically that doesnt happen, Reinhart said.
Congressional investigations have found otherwise.
In April 2008, the House Judiciary Committee issued a report about the George W. Bush administration rewarding U.S. Attorneys willing to bring charges reflective of the administrations agenda.
The report, done by a bipartisan committee, found that some U.S. Attorneys between 2001 and 2007 were replaced because they failed to bring charges supporting a political agenda and others were retained because they did bring such charges.
Anna Mills Wagoner, the top prosecutor in the Middle District when the Edwards investigation began, had been listed on early target lists of the Bush administration as a U.S. attorney who was insufficiently supportive of the Bush agenda, according to the memorandum filed by the Edwards defense team. The Edwards case was developed in Holdings district, then switched to the Middle District for trial.
The Obama administration allowed Holding to remain in his post three years after Obama took office at the request of Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, and Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem. The senators used a special blue-slip process in 2009 urging Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. not to replace Holding while he was in the middle of investigations of two high-profile Democrats.