Two months after a jury failed to reach a verdict in the federal corruption case against Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and the other defendant, Salomon Melgen, the Justice Department said Friday that it wants to try again, and soon.
"The United States presents this notice of intent to retry the accused and requests that the Court establish the case for a new trial as soon as possible," says the notice of a paragraph signed by AnnaLou Tirol, interim head of the section of public integrity of the department. "Defendants Robert Menendez and Salomon Melgen have been charged with bribery and corruption rupture by two separate grand juries duly impaled in the District of New Jersey.The first trial ended in a mistrial with a jury with no way out. A first trial date is best for the public, and the United States is available to schedule a new trial as soon as possible. "
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Menendez, a senior senator from New Jersey, is ready for reelection this year.
"We regret that the Department of Justice, after spending millions and millions of dollars on taxpayers, and not being able to prove a single accusation before a court, decided to duplicate an unfair accusation," said a statement from the office of Menéndez. "Obviously, they did not hear the overwhelming voices of the New Jersey residents who served on the jury this fall, Senator Menéndez intends to be vindicated again."
Kirk Ogrosky, a lawyer for Melgen, said he was " very disappointed "that the Department of Justice would try the case again.
"Anyone who saw the testimony, reviewed the evidence and spoke with the jurors and alternates at the first trial knows that this accusation was ridiculous and should never have been presented," he said.
Primero Menéndez y Melgen The trial took place more than two years after they were charged in 2015. Federal authorities allege Melgen, a wealthy ophthalmologist from Florida, provided Menéndez with private flights, luxurious vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions. In return, Menendez allegedly left to beat Melgen with federal officials to help his financial interests in a $ 9 million Medicare billing dispute and a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
The federal government also alleges that Menendez secured tourist visas for three of Melgen's married young foreign brides and one of her sisters in exchange for the gifts.
"The conduct alleged in the indictment is serious and guarantees a new trial before a jury of citizens in the District of New Jersey," DOJ spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement. "The decision to retry this case was based on the facts and the law, after a careful review.The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty." .
Neither the DOJ's presentation nor Hornbuckle's statement indicated whether the department will attempt to amend Menéndez again in the 12 counts against him, 11 of which were bribes and one of which was the presentation of false reports.
The new trial, although it is probable, is not a certainty. Two weeks after US District Court Judge William Walls declared the trial null and void, Menéndez's attorneys filed a motion for his acquittal. Walls has not yet ruled on that motion.
The first trial began in September and included more than 100 witnesses and thousands of documents. But the jury stalled in November and the nullity was declared. A juror told reporters that the jury was 10-2 in favor of acquittal on most charges.
Melgen also faces the prospect of decades in prison for a conviction for Medicare fraud in a separate case.
Menéndez plans to run for re-election and Democrats throughout the state have already joined him around him. But the prospect of a new trial in the middle of his re-election year has the potential to make that decision and its commitments fall, and will surely lead to a new round of Democrats who will position themselves to succeed him.
When asked if his support for Menendez would change, Democratic state president John Currie said he was still processing the news.
"I want to hear the senator, I'm a supporter of the senator, I've always been a fervent supporter of the senator," Currie said. "And before making a comment, first I want to have a conversation with him, express his feelings and then talk to the rest of my colleagues."
In the run-up to Menéndez's first trial, which began in September, some Democrats silently felt their support for the Senate in the event Menéndez was convicted.
Former Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli was open about his intention to run for the seat if Menendez had to evict him. Menendez resented that, and in front of the federal court in Newark after his trial was declared null and void, Menéndez made a famous statement about the Democrats seeking his seat: "To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump to my seat, I know who you are and I will not forget you. "
If Menéndez remains on the ballot, the Republicans would have the opportunity to elect a seat in the Senate in New Jersey in a year in which the Senate map is already unfavorable to the Democrats.
Although New Jersey often elects Republican governors, the same is not true for senators. The last time a Republican won the US Senate elections UU In New Jersey it was 1972.
The first trial had its effect on Menendez's popularity with 51 percent of New Jersey voters saying in a recent poll that he does not deserve re-election.
At least one wealthy Republican, executive pharmacist Robert Hugin, is considering a career for Menéndez's seat.