Judge declares mistrial in corruption case against US Senator Menendez
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J./Lev Radin (Shutterstock.com.)
Updated: A federal judge in Newark, New Jersey, has declared a mistrial in the corruption case against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
U.S. District Judge William Walls acted after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous decision on any of the charges against the Democrat and a co-defendant, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, NJ.com and Politico.
It was the second time jurors said they couldn’t agree. Walls told jurors to resume deliberations after they reported a deadlock on Monday. On Thursday, jurors explained their disagreement in a note.
“We have each tried to look at this case from different viewpoints but still feel strongly in our positions, nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions,” the note said.
Prosecutors were unable to produce any evidence directly tying Mendendez’s actions to an alleged bribe, according to Politico. Instead, the case was based mainly on timing between Mendendez’s actions and gifts from Melgen that included campaign contributions and luxury trips.
Prosecutors had claimed Menendez pressured officials to help Melgen get visas for foreign girlfriends, resolve a Medicare dispute and obtain a port security contract. Defense lawyers maintained the men were good friends, and Menendez was interested in Melgen’s disputes with federal agencies because they were related to broader policy issues.
Following the mistrial, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a Senate ethics investigation of Menendez, report Politico and the Hill.
The Kentucky Republican said in a statement that Menendez is one of only 12 U.S. senators to have been indicted in the history of the Senate. “His trial shed light on serious accusations of violating the public’s trust as an elected official, as well as potential violations of the Senate’s Code of Conduct,” McConnell said. “Because of the seriousness of these charges, I am calling on the Senate Ethics committee to immediately investigate.”
Updated at 2:15 p.m. to include McConnell’s statement.