God's Not Done With Edwards? What's Next For Wealthy Ex-Politician

Does John Edwards have the wherewithal for a legal, business, political career?

ByABC News
June 1, 2012, 10:12 AM

June 1, 2012 — -- Former presidential candidate John Edwards, declared not guilty on one count and with the jury deadlocked on all others, escaped a maximum sentence of 30 years and a $1.5 million fine. The ex-senator and star trial lawyer, estimated to be worth more than $30 million, said he will be dedicating his time to his family and children who "deserve help."

With enough financial means and some legal hurdles out of the way for now, Edwards will likely be able to pursue the charitable causes he alluded to in a statement after the verdict on Thursday.

"I don't think God's through with me. I really believe he thinks there are still some good things I can do," Edwards said outside the courtroom on Thursday. "And whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I'm hopeful for is all those kids that I've seen, you know, in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world, that I can help them in whatever way I'm still capable of helping them."

Prosecutors said Edwards knew of the $1 million utilized by his former aide, Andrew Young and former mistress, Rielle Hunter, despite the $2,300 legal limit on campaign donations.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said whatever Edwards decides he should "certainly rule out seeking major public office."

"With a popularity rating in the single digits, Democrats would be loath to nominate him, so I doubt he'd even get to a general election," Sabato said.

Edwards had amassed his own wealth through hedge fund investments and a successful career as a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney.

During Edwards' campaign for president, which he abandoned early in 2008, he disclosed that his income was over $7 million in 2006. That figure pales in comparison to his time as trial attorney. In the joint tax return of Edwards and his former wife, the late Elizabeth Edwards, the couple reported an adjusted gross income of $11.4 million when he was an attorney in 1997.

In 2006, Edward's campaign estimated his net worth to be $29.5 million. He owns real estate in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to public records.

Sabato said that if Edwards, 58, keeps his law license, he could revamp his career in the legal field.

"He'd be better off doing charity work and trying to improve his image that way," he said. "Perhaps that is what he has in mind."

In 2009, Edwards spent time building homes in El Salvador for a Christian housing organization, Homes from the Heart.

"I want to dedicate my life to being the best dad I can be and to helping those kids who I think deserve help and who I hope I can help," Edwards said on Thursday.

With Elizabeth, who died of cancer in late 2010, he had four children: Wade, Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack. Wade Edwards died in an auto accident in 1996 at the age of 16.

Elizabeth Edwards left her estate, estimated at $1.5 million, to her three surviving children.

Edwards fathered Frances Quinn Hunter, born in 2008, with Rielle Hunter.

Steven Friedland, professor of law at Elon University School of Law in North Carolina, said the verdict was "a great victory" for Edwards "but a hollow one given how far he has fallen from grace."

"His future may lie in a path of rehabilitation, providing a real life story of reclamation, ethics and values. We can learn what not to do and how our leaders can inspire instead of causing this kind of harm," he said.

"This could coincide with him actually doing good deeds, such as working for the poor and others. It's not just him talking about good deeds, however," Friedland said. "We want to see him doing it."

ABC News' Russell Goldman, James Hill and Beth Lloyd contributed to this report.