Mistrial declared by federal judge in Menendez corruption case

Days after ordering the jury to continue deliberations, a federal judge presiding over the corruption trial of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in Newark declared a mistrial.

Jurors had deliberated for a week and a half without reaching an unanimous verdict.

Informed shortly before noon the jurors remained at an impasse on all counts, U.S. District Judge William H. Walls ended the 10-week trial on Thursday.

“We can not reach a unanimous decision on any of the charges, nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions,” read a note from jurors to Judge Walls.

Accompanied by prosecutors and defense attorneys, Walls spoke privately with jurors for one hour before returning to the court and declaring a mistrial.

Surrounded by his children and attorney, at times emotional, a defiant Menendez addressed reporters outside the courthouse.

“The way this case started was wrong. The way it was investigated was wrong. The way it was prosecuted was wrong,” proclaimed the senator, thanking 12 jurors “who saw through the government’s false claims and used their Jersey common sense to reject it,” Menendez told reporters after leaving the courtroom.

Menendez, who has served in the Senate since 2006, was charged with 18 federal counts related to public corruption.  Bribery among the charges, Menendez is believed to have accepted gifts from a Florida physician, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for intervening on behalf of Melgen’s business interests.

Dr. Melgen was convicted earlier this year on 67 counts of Medicare fraud.

Jurors interviewed by the Associated Press after the trial said a couple of their peers were in favor of convicting the senator on at least one charge, but most on the panel voted for acquittal.

A recent Supreme Court decision in a case involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell narrowed the definition of bribery to not include intent, but the actually exertion of “pressure” to do something as a result of a payment or gift.

“I don’t think the government proved it. There was no smoking gun in this case,” said one juror. “When the prosecution rested, I didn’t see anything that was concrete. In my gut, I was like ‘that’s all they had?'”

Following the judge’s declaration, federal prosecutors were weighing the possibility of retrying Menendez.  A bipartisan contingent of members on the Senate Ethics Committee also said they will continue an inquiry of the New Jersey lawmaker which originally began in 2012.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

 

[NJ.com] [AP] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Vice]

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