The 11-week trial of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) ended a week ago Thursday when Judge William Walls declared a mistrial after the jury said they could not come to a verdict. Prosecutors have not said whether they will re-file the charges, which were the result of a five-year investigation.
Menendez was charged with conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud in his duties as U.S. senator, for allegedly accepting more than $600,000 in political contributions and gifts from a longtime friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Prosecutors attempted to prove Menendez took these things in exchange for political favors to Melgen, who was convicted of unrelated charges earlier this year.
Over a week ago, after a juror was excused, she talked to the press about some of the discussions going in the jury deliberations. This was one of the factors in the declaring of a mistrial.
In comments after the trial, Menendez thanked his supporters and condemned the system of justice.
“The way this case started was wrong,” he said. “The way it was investigated was wrong. The way it was prosecuted was wrong. And the way it was tried was wrong as well. Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot understand, or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up to be a United States senator and be honest.”
Menendez’s parent emigrated from Cuba. He grew up in Union City and eventually became mayor before heading to Congress.
Still has support
Menendez said, “I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have come to tell me that the FBI went to them and asked them ‘What can you give us on Menendez?’ That is not what the FBI and the Department of Justice is supposed to be doing. They were not supposed to be leaking to the press in the early stages of their investigation. It violated my rights to a fair process.”
Menendez went on to say: “I’ve made my share of mistakes, but my mistakes were never a crime. I’ve learned through this process a lot about our system of justice. It is truly a system of justice you can afford. I understand why so many Americans feel that justice is elusive. I’ve also learned about the incredible weight and power of the federal government and how it can crush you if it wants to. It gives me an even greater resolve to make sure that there is a check to that awesome power.”
In a statement, local Rep. Albio Sires continued to support Menendez.
“Today’s outcome by the jury shows that after 11 weeks they could not come to a unanimous decision. Bob and I have worked together for the better part of our careers, whether it was as mayors, members of the New Jersey Assembly, and now in Washington to improve the lives of all New Jerseyans. It’s clear that he has never stopped fighting for our state.”
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise also issued a statement.
“I knew my friend Bob Menendez would prevail because after working with him for nearly two decades, I know who he is as a person, and what he stands for as a public servant, that is above all, fighting for the voiceless in this country,” said DeGise. “With so much left to be done, with so many vulnerable people under threat from a GOP-run Washington, I am very happy to know that Bob Menendez will be able to get back into that fight full time now. And I look forward to supporting him next year when he seeks re-election to continue this vital work.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.