The acquittal and mistrial in John Edwards' campaign finance fraud trial completes a fall from grace that transformed the man who might have been president into one of the most vilified and lampooned political figures in the country.
The boyish-looking, smooth-talking lawyer and self-described "son of a millworker" was once known for rallying supporters with a populist mantra describing two Americas -- the haves and have-nots.
Now he is best known for fathering a child in an extramarital affair while his wife Elizabeth battled incurable cancer and, according to prosecutors, scheming to use wealthy donors' money to help him cover up his affair and hide his mistress from the public.
It was all so different five years ago, when Edwards could be heard preaching his populist prose to Iowa voters who eagerly packed into lumber barns, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls and restaurants across the state.
He had every reason to believe he could be president. He felt the country would let Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- both senators at the time with presidential ambitions of their own -- destroy each other with negative campaigning.
And if the country wasn't ready to elect a black man or a woman president, he would rise as the more experienced and safe nominee.
To many voters, Edwards was a fitting candidate to live in the White House and serve as president.
Instead, Edwards appeared in front of TV cameras Thursday and took responsibility for "my sins" after his federal corruption case ended in an acquittal and mistrial.
Prosecutors had accused Edwards of using almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to keep his pregnant mistress under wraps. But after more than 50 hours of deliberations, jurors cleared him of one of six counts and deadlocked on the rest.
Edwards, who turns 59 on June 10, argued that while his actions were wrong, they were not illegal.
Emerging from the courthouse with his parents and daughter at his side, he said that while he never believed he committed a crime, "I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong, and there is no one else responsible for my sins."
Now a widower, he is the sole caregiver to his two youngest children by his late wife -- Emma Claire, 13, and Jack, 11. The couple also raised two older children. Their son, Wade, died at age 16 in a 1996 road accident.
Daughter Cate Edwards Upham attended every day of her father's four-week trial, sitting behind Edwards and next to her grandparents.
Edwards also provides financial support for his daughter with Rielle Hunter, his mistress from the campaign trail during his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2008 election.
A product of a working class family from South Carolina, Edwards got a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1977. He became a successful trial lawyer representing claimants against large corporations and insurance companies.
He won his first, and only major, political race in 1998, unseating a Republican incumbent to become a U.S. senator from North Carolina.
As a senator, Edwards reportedly made it onto a list of potential running mates for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. He didn't make the ticket that time.
But before his first term ended, he was running for president and ended up as Sen. John Kerry's running mate in 2004. Kerry lost to incumbent President George W. Bush.
Once running mates, Kerry and Edwards quickly severed their friendship after what was a disappointing election for Edwards. He quickly set his sights on Iowa, gearing up for another presidential bid in 2008.
Edwards met Hunter in early 2006 at a bar at the Regency Hotel in New York City. Hunter approached Edwards, not believing it was him. Later that evening, Edwards and Hunter met again, privately.
The man who constantly spoke about two Americas began living two lives.
The 40-something Hunter told Edwards that she could help his campaign. Edwards hired her to produce a few videos that would present the politician in a more relaxed manner. The videos were called "webisodes" and were posted to Edwards' campaign site.
However, instead of showing Edwards in a new light, the flirtatious on-camera banter only highlighted just how close Edwards and Hunter had become.
Staffers began to suspect that Hunter had become more than a videographer to Edwards. That thought was fueled by Edwards' directive that Hunter be allowed to travel with him whenever either of them insisted.
Josh Brumberger was Edwards' chief of staff during the time Hunter traveled with the campaign. On several occasions, he talked to Edwards about Hunter's involvement with the campaign.