POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Judge declares mistrial in Menendez bribery case

BY NJTV News Staff |

A jury at the federal courthouse in Newark on Thursday was unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and wealthy Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.

The hung jury comes after nearly two weeks of deliberations. Last Thursday, juror eight was excused for a previously scheduled vacation. After being excused, the juror confirmed that they were deadlocked, saying that she believed Menendez was not guilty. An alternate took her place on Monday, but the deadlock still remained.

The rest of the week was relatively quiet with very little coming from the jury. On Thursday, the jury said that after reviewing all the counts and evidence it was still unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the 18 counts. Menendez is accused of 12 of those counts, which range from conspiracy to bribery to fraud.

Menendez addressed media outside of the courthouse, starting by thanking his family, staff, jury and defense team.

“The way this case started was wrong, the way it was investigated was wrong, the way it was prosecuted was wrong and the way it was tried was wrong, as well,” he said.

Menendez continued by admitting his mistakes “were never a crime.”

“To those who left me, who abandoned me in my darkest moment, I forgive you. To those who embraced me in my darkest moment, I love you. To those New Jerseyans who gave me benefit of the doubt, I thank you….To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are, and I won’t forget you,” he said.

Menendez says he spent 43 years of his entire adult life in service to the state of New Jersey and to the nation, in which he has done so “with honesty and integrity.”  He noted in remarks that he’s proud of what he’s accomplished in his career and he looks forward to returning to Washington to fight for the people of New Jersey and those across the country.

“Today is Resurrection Day and I want to thank God, once again, for allowing me stand before you as I walked into this courthouse 11 weeks ago an innocent man.”

With the jury hung, Judge William Walls declared a mistrial, which throughout deliberations he was strongly opposed to. Now, the prosecution must decide if they will retry the case, which has already taken up a lot of resources, both in time and money

The prosecution alleged that, in exchange for free flights, luxury vacations and more than $700,000 in campaign contributions, Menendez went to bat for Melgen with federal officials in two main areas:

One, to fend off an $8.9 million Medicare fraud complaint; and two, to enhance the value of a cargo screening business in the Dominican Republic that Melgen had purchased as an investment.

The government also said Menendez helped get visas for three of Melgen’s girlfriends.

The Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. prosecuted the case, not the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, to avoid conflicts of interest.

The defense team was led by high-powered D.C. Attorney Abbe Lowell, and prominent New Jersey Attorney Raymond M. Brown.

They argued that Menendez and Melgen have been friends for 20 years and that helping a friend is not the same as corruption, and that Menendez’s actions on behalf of a friend are protected by several legal doctrines and precedents.

The trial ultimately lasted 11 weeks and could have had immense political ramifications if Menendez was found guilty.