Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), was facing an indictment accusing him of using his office to benefit a friend in exchange for bribes.
According to The Daily Mail, despite the mountain of evidence pointing to his apparent guilt, the jury was deadlocked and couldn’t determine guilt or innocence. So US District Judge William Walls declared a mistrial, effectively ending the proceedings and letting Sen. Menendez go.
Two and a half years ago, Sen. Menendez was accused of using his office in the Senate to benefit Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in exchange for bribes and gifts. Prosecutors claim that Sen. Menendez helped Mr. Melgen settle an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute, pressured officials from the Dominican Republic regarding a business deal with Mr. Melgen, and helped obtain US visas for a number of Mr. Melgen’s girlfriends.
In exchange, Mr. Melgen donated large sums of money to Sen. Menendez’s campaign coffers, organized lavish vacations to locations like the Caribbean and Paris for the Senator and his family, and even loaned his private jet for Sen. Menendez to use at his leisure.
Sen. Menendez’s lawyers maintain the two men are “like brothers” and the favors and gift exchanges were between friends and not part of some corrupt scheme to exploit Sen. Menendez’s office.
Surprisingly, the majority of the jury sided with Sen. Menendez with 10 members pushing for acquittal. The deadlock occurred after the remaining two members remained convinced that Sen. Menendez was guilty. The deadlock lasted for six days of deliberations.
Determining the jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision, required in cases like this, the judge declared the case a mistrial and the matter was effectively dropped.
Sen. Menendez, in a public appearance, attacked the prosecutors and even the judge saying, “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 even went so far as to claim the allegations against him by the FBI and the Justice Department were motivated by racism. “[They] certainly cannot understand that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up to be a United States senator and be honest.”
Sen. Menendez also thanked the individuals who helped raise millions of dollars to provide for his legal defense fund. Very little of the court costs, if any, came out of his own pocket.
Mr. Melgen was not so lucky. He was convicted in April for defrauding Medicare of around $105 million. He was able to raise the large sum of money by performing unnecessary tests and treatments on his patients.
The prosecutors against Sen. Menendez haven’t stated that they’ve given up pursuing charges against the Senator. When asked if they would retry the case, they responded to reporters that they would “carefully consider next steps” in the matter.
The fact that Mr. Melgen was found guilty of Medicare fraud for hundreds of millions of dollars and the fact that their exchanging of gifts and favors is public knowledge makes it surprising that so many on the jury would seek an acquittal.
The trial of Sen. Menendez has been declared a mistrial and he is off the hook. Do you agree with this ruling?
It’s also absurd that Sen. Menendez believes the indictments against him are based on racism, and not the considerably questionable activities between him and a man found guilty of corruption.
While the Senator will be permitted to go back to work, it’s unlikely that he will find favor among voters at his upcoming reelection bid and it’s unlikely the FBI and Justice Department will let the matter drop so easily.