Menendez jury resumes talks as judge mulls new instructions

Seth Wenig  AP

A judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who faced 18 counts of bribery, fraud, and corruption.

On August 30, Justice Department prosecutors filed a document in court as the trial began, outlining the evidence against Menendez receiving political bribes from Florida Optometrist Dr. Salomon Melgen. Bob Menendez's trial said for a second time Thursday that they are deadlocked on the counts of the indictment, a strong sign that the case may soon end in a mistrial. Although he avoided a felony conviction that could have spelled the end of his political career, he now faces the prospect of campaigning through much of 2018 dogged by numerous same charges the government first brought in April 2015.

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The charges against the men included bribery, conspiracy and honest services fraud, which was the most serious count of all, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Menendez said earlier this month he was convinced he'd be exonerated. The federal judge denied Menendez's argument to use the Supreme Court ruling that overturned former Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonell's corruption conviction to have his trial thrown out. The jury then retires to resume deliberations. Some Republicans had hoped for Menendez's conviction and resignation by mid-January, which would have given outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, the chance to pick his replacement.

One juror, Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby, was excused from the trial last week because of a previous engagement. Melgen faced the same charges except for the false statements accusation.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) might have looked like a dead man walking.

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Menendez reciprocated by aiding Melgen's business interests, prosecutors added, including helping him with a Medicare billing dispute and obtaining visas for foreign women described as Melgen's girlfriends.

The senator also helped foreign women get USA visas to visit the married doctor in Florida.

Defense lawyers said there was no corrupt motive behind the friends exchanging gifts and vacationing together.

Defense attorneys said Menendez's meetings on behalf of Melgen were to discuss policy issues, and various trips to the Dominican Republic were merely social visits between friends.

After more than week of deliberations and one juror being replaced because of a planned vacation, the jury could not all agree on the Senator's guilt or innocence. An alternate took her place on Monday, but the deadlock still remained. On November 13, the jurors sent Judge Walls a note telling him they were deadlocked on a decision.

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