Breaking: Menendez Trial Ends With Mistrial

NEWARK – The corruption trial of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has ended in a hung jury, after jurors were unable to bridge their differences during eight days of deliberations.

For Menendez, a career public servant who has won election at every level of legislative politics, the jury’s muddled decision saves him from a conviction and likely prison time, but leaves him vulnerable inside the courtroom and at the ballot box.

Judge William Walls declared a mistrial in the case this afternoon, yielding to the jurors’ second plea that they were hopelessly deadlocked. 

It may not be the end of Menendez’s self-described odyssey to clear his name from charges of bribery, conspiracy and false statements. It is not immediately clear if the Department of Justice will attempt to retry the case.

Prosecutors wanted Walls to allow the jury to reach a split verdict, delineating the counts they could reach a decision on, while declaring themselves hung on the rest. Walls denied that request, implying the jury’s two-paragraph note declaring their second deadlock was one of the most definitive he has seen during his decades on the bench.
Though it is clear jurors did not believe prosecutors proved their case against Menendez and his close friend Dr. Salomon Melgen beyond a reasonable doubt on any of the charges, a hung jury falls short of the exoneration Menendez said he expected.
Reaction from Menendez may come shortly during an expected news conference outside the federal courthouse.

The senator is up for re-election in 2018. The traditional start of the campaign season was delayed by the New Jersey governor’s race, but it may not be exaggeration to say the senate race kicks into high gear today.

Menendez entered the courtroom after the note was received late this morning looking as nervous as he’s been throughout the trial. When the missive was delivered – one copy each to the legal teams – the defense attorneys and prosecutors clustered around it.
A junior member of the Menendez legal team leaned across the divider between the defense table and the gallery to whisper the news to Menendez’s two adult children, seated in the front row. Bob Menendez Jr.’s eyes widened.
The defense team, standing and milling about as they mulled a response, gave Menendez pats on the back.
After Walls heard arguments, he directed all of the attorneys to join him inside his chambers, off the record. Menendez’s attorney Abbe Lowell sought the senator’s attention as he stood in the chamber doorway.
“Senator,” Lowell said, “you get to be a part of this.”
Menendez headed inside followed by Melgen.
Later, jurors could be seen being led into and out of Walls’ chambers by his court clerk, likely for interviews with the judge, the attorneys and the defendants. When they emerged, Menendez sank into his chair, tilted his head back, closed his eyes and stared up at the ceiling for a long moment.
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