Two years ago, Bob Menendez was indicted on charges of corruption. The Democratic senator from New Jersey was accused of bribery and accepting lavish gifts in exchange for helping his friend Dr. Salomon Melgen navigate Medicare disputes and land plum contracts in the Dominican Republic. The prosecution spent weeks calling on witnesses for testimony, and jurors have lingered over their deliberations. Now Menendez’s case has stopped short in a mistrial with considerable political implications.
The jury had been struggling for weeks, unable to reach a unanimous decision as to whether Menendez acted unethically or if he was simply being generous with a long-time friend. Judge Walls tried to encourage the jury to reach a decision but was unable to cajole them into agreement.“We cannot reach a unanimous decision,’’ the jury said in a Thursday memo. “Nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions.”
This impasse affects far more than just Senator Menendez. This could discourage future prosecutors from taking up these kinds of high-profile corruption cases. Not only that, the mistrial means that Menendez will be able to stay in office, rather than fielding calls for his resignation.
What isn’t clear yet how this outcome will shape voters’ approach to midterm elections. If Menendez, a Democrat, had been pushed out of office, it would have been up to Republican Chris Christie to appoint a temporary replacement to hold his seat for the next year. Now that he’s free to continue his political career, however, Menendez might try running for reelection, a possibility some analysts warn could be bad news for Democrats who want to hold on to that Senate seat.
(Via Washington Post)