The federal corruption trial of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial Thursday (Nov. 16) after the jury reported it is hopelessly deadlocked.
Judge William Walls declared the mistrial after interviewing several jurors Thursday.
“I find that you are unable to reach a verdict and that further deliberations would be futile and there is no alternative but to declare a mistrial,” he said.
The mistrial is a blow to the Justice Department, which has been investigating Menendez for nearly five years, but leaves the senator without the clear vindication he had hoped for in court.
Prosecutors did not immediately announce whether they will refile charges against Menendez, but any delay at this point helps Democrats who want to hold onto his Senate seat and virtually eliminates any realistic possibility that Republican Gov. Chris Christie — who leaves office on January 16, 2018 — could select the senator’s replacement if he resigned or was removed from the Senate.
MENENDEZ JUROR REPLACED, PREDICTS ‘HUNG JURY’
A juror dismissed from the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday she believes the case is headed toward a “hung jury.”
“It’s going to be a hung jury,” Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby, the former “Juror No. 8,” said in an interview with CNN.
Arroyo-Maultsby had longstanding vacation plans that Judge William Walls had agreed to honor and was dismissed as the jury ended 16 hours of deliberations this week without reaching a verdict. Deliberations will resume Monday morning, but the move in essence means jurors have to start deliberations over with the alternate present. Alternate jurors watched the proceedings of the 10-week trial and heard all of the arguments, but have been kept separate from the main jury panel during deliberations.
Arroyo-Maultsby said she was advocating for the New Jersey Democratic senator to be acquitted.
To continue reading the CNN report, click here.
JURY WEIGHS FATE OF SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ IN BRIBERY TRIAL
NEWARK — A federal jury in Newark began deliberating Monday on whether Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) misused his office to help a friend and donor with business and personal interests.
In his closing argument on Monday, Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell said his client’s “deep and abiding friendship” with co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, “destroys every single one of the charges” against them.
Over the course of nine weeks, jurors have heard evidence about private jet flights, a luxury hotel stay and other gifts prosecutors say add up to a corrupt bargain between the two men. Defense lawyers have argued the relationship between them was based on a close personal friendship, not influence-peddling.
To read the complete article from The Washington Post, click here.
THE GHOST OF MERRICK GARLAND HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH FUTURE OF BOB MENENDEZ
By Gregory Krieg
By this time next week, Sen. Bob Menendez could be faced with a decision only a novel few of his predecessors have been asked to make: resign following conviction in a court of law or hold tight to his seat over the howls of partisan objectors.
The New Jersey Democrat and an associate are currently being tried in New Jersey on corruption charges. Closing arguments in the case could wrap up on Monday, which means jury deliberations are finally on the horizon. But the real drama might not begin until after the verdicts are handed down.
The question in the minds of Washington has less to do with Menendez’s personal fate, but the future of his seat. If found guilty and chased from office, New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, would be tasked under state law with appointing a replacement. (Note: Menendez could very easily be acquitted; there is no consensus on where exactly his trial is headed.)
Adding to the drama, the Garden State will vote next Tuesday to elect a new governor. Democratic nominee Phil Murphy is an overwhelming favorite in the race, far outpacing GOP Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the polls. That’s thanks in no small part to Christie, who will leave office as one of the most unpopular elected officials in the country.
But Christie doesn’t go until the middle of next January. So if Menendez were to be convicted in the coming days and then choose to resign (he’s been very clear that he won’t) or find himself expelled from the Senate by his colleagues (which requires 67 votes), his successor would likely be a Republican. It might even be Christie himself.
Which brings us to back to the winter of 2016.
On February 13, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died overnight during a hunting trip in Texas. Just over a month later, then-President Barack Obama nominated appeals court Judge Merrick Garland to take his seat.
And then, for months on end, nothing.
Republicans in the Senate never allowed Garland a public hearing. His nomination was tabled as the presidential campaign slouched toward November. With Donald Trump’s victory, Garland’s hopes of ever sitting on the high court were effectively doomed. On January 31, Trump tapped Neil Gorsuch for the bench. He was confirmed on April 7 in a mostly party-line vote.
Click here to continue reading this CNN analysis.
ATTORNEYS LET FLY DURING CLOSING ARGUMENTS
NEWARK (11/2/2017) — An attorney for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s co-defendant Salomon Melgen on Thursday disparaged the case against the men as a “trial by email” and accused prosecutors of engaging in a “terrifying” campaign of manipulation and deception to win a conviction.
“They took out of context emails and made a timeline to make things appear related that aren’t related,” Kirk Ogrosky told jurors. “They’re lying to you. They’re making up a story and trying to get the evidence to fit their story.”
Ogrosky made his assertion in a crowded courtroom in Newark that was the setting Thursday for closing arguments in Menendez’s corruption trial, which has now reached the end of its ninth week. The drama lasted more than four hours Thursday and also featured impassioned pleas to jurors from prosecutor J.P. Cooney.
“An elected official like Sen. Menendez should be accountable to the citizens he represents, not to a wealthy doctor who lavished him with luxury trips and jaw-dropping campaign checks,” Cooney told jurors, adding later: “Hold these defendants accountable. Find them guilty.”
HAS THE SUPREME COURT LEGALIZED PUBLIC CORRUPTION?
For a few days earlier this month, it looked like the years-long corruption probe targeting New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez would fall apart seven weeks into his trial. At issue was the prosecution’s “stream of benefits” theory, which argues that the steady flow of donations and gifts from a wealthy Florida doctor to the Democratic senator—and the flow of favors from the senator to the doctor—amounted to quid pro quo corruption.
During a hearing last week, Judge William Walls seemed to signal that argument was dead on arrival by citing a recent Supreme Court ruling that has vexed public-corruption investigators across the country. “I frankly don’t think McDonnell will allow that,” Walls told prosecutors, referring to the decision in McDonnell v. United States that fundamentally changed the standard for bribery.
Walls eventually decided to let the case proceed, declining to throw out most of Menendez’s charges. But the close call underscores the continuing fallout from McDonnell last year. That ruling, like a series of others from the Court in recent years, recast actions once eschewed in politics as reasonable behavior for elected officials. The justices have portrayed these rulings as necessary on First Amendment grounds. But the long-term effects could imperil the public’s faith in democratic institutions.
FORMER STAFFER’S TESTIMONY PROVIDES BOOST FOR DEFENSE
(10/20/2017) – U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez received a boost at his federal corruption trial [this week] when a longtime staffer took the stand and contradicted testimony from previous witnesses that had been among the most damaging to the senator thus far.
The testimony of Karissa Willhite, Menendez’s former deputy chief of staff for policy, was indicative of how the tone of the trial has changed now that the government has rested its case and the defense can call its own witnesses to the stand.
Earlier in the trial, the government called witnesses who testified that Menendez had used “unusual” or even “hostile” tactics to try to get government officials to side with Melgen in an $8.9 million billing dispute he had with Medicare.
But through his questions to Willhite on Wednesday, Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell elicited a much different version of events.
PENCE: ‘INAPPROPRIATE AND WRONG’ FOR MENENDEZ TO REMAIN IN SENATE IF CONVICTED
(10/17/2017) – It would be “inappropriate and wrong” for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to remain in the Senate if convicted in his felony corruption trial, Vice President Mike Pence indicated on Tuesday.
Menendez, a Democrat, faces 18 corruption-related charges in connection with allegations that he wrongfully assisted a donor and friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in navigating government issues while Melgen attempted to get away with more than $100 million in Medicare fraud.
Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Tuesday morning, Pence said that “having a convicted felon in the United States Senate, I think, would be altogether inappropriate and wrong.”
Continue reading in The Daily Caller.
MENENDEZ JUDGE DENIES MOTION TO ACQUIT, TRIAL TURNS TO DEFENSE’S CASE
Newark, New Jersey (10/16/2017) – A federal judge in Newark denied Sen. Bob Menendez’s attempt to toss out the Justice Department’s bribery case against him Monday morning.
The trial, now in its seventh week, will turn to the defense case as lawyers for the New Jersey Democrat and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy ophthalmologist from Florida, try to convince jurors that prosecutors have wrongly twisted a longtime friendship into an illegal bribery scheme.
The heart of the Justice Department’s case rests on accusations that Menendez accepted political contributions, free rides on private jets and a swanky hotel suite in Paris from Melgen in exchange for agreeing to pressure other high-level federal officials in the executive branch to help resolve his wealthy friend’s business problems — “official acts” prosecutors claim put Menendez on the hook under federal bribery law.
(10/11/2017) – The prosecution on Wednesday rested its case against Sen. Robert Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, after more than a month of testimony.
Prosecutors closed with a witness they had called several times over the course of the federal corruption trial: FBI agent Alan Mohl, who was a key witness in building the case against Menendez and Melgen.
Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell immediately moved to dismiss the case based on the “government’s lack of satisfying the burden of proof.”
To read the full story in Politico, click here.
Newark, New Jersey (CNN) – Prosecutors rested their federal corruption case against Sen. Bob Menendez Wednesday, capping off weeks of a trial that could determine the political future of the New Jersey Democrat.
Over 18 days of testimony from 35 witnesses, prosecutors have tried to establish a “quid pro quo” bribery theory that they set forth during open arguments.
“This case is about a corrupt politician who sold his Senate office for a life of luxury he couldn’t afford,” said prosecutor Peter Koski. “And a greedy doctor who put that politician on his payroll for when he needed the services of a United States senator.”
To read the CNN report, click here.
SUPREME COURT RULING THREATENS TO DERAIL CASE AGAINST MENENDEZ
NEWARK (10/11/17) — After federal prosecutors rested their case in the corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez on Wednesday, the federal judge presiding over the trial raised critical questions into one of the core tenets of the government’s case against the New Jersey senator, citing a United States Supreme Court decision that overturned the conviction of the Bob McDonnell, a former governor of Virginia.
Continue reading in The New York Times by clicking here.
WILL JUDGE TOSS CASE BEFORE IT GOES TO THE JURY?
Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal corruption trial is expected to last several more weeks, but a cryptic comment from the judge presiding over the case has renewed questions about whether it will even go to the jury.
“I am very careful because of you know what and that being McDonnell,” Judge William Walls said earlier this week — issuing the legal equivalent of a thunderclap in the courtroom.
The “McDonnell” bomb that Walls dropped is a 2016 Supreme Court case unanimously tossing out the bribery conviction of former Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell (photo at top) — a result that has produced a gold mine of litigation for defense attorneys seeking to upend guilty verdicts in corruption cases.
‘WHERE IS THE CRIME EXACTLY?’
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has spent the past month on trial in New Jersey for allegations that he was bribed with villa stays, private plane flights and campaign donations to help a wealthy donor resolve several disputes with the government. It’s the first federal bribery trial of a sitting U.S. senator in more than three decades, and if he’s found guilty over the next few weeks, it could have political implications for President Trump’s agenda.
The Washington Post interviewed Thomas Moriarty, the federal courts reporter for N.J. Advance Media, to see how the Menendez trial was going. When asked what the headline was for the trial so far, he answered: Where is the crime exactly? If there is a crime, where is it?
To read the Washington Post report, click here.
MEETING WITH SEBELIUS IS FOCUS OF MENENDEZ TRIAL
(10/3/2017) – The bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is focusing on a 2012 meeting with then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
An indictment charges the New Jersey Democrat met with Sebelius in 2012 to advocate on behalf of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in Melgen’s $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute. It alleges Melgen bribed Menendez with trips on his private jet and luxury hotel stays.
A former agency official testified Monday that Menendez reacted angrily when the staffer disagreed with the senator’s claim that Medicare billing policy was being applied inconsistently.
To read the Associated Press story, click here.
‘HE WAS NOT HAPPY’: MENENDEZ PUSHED FOR RULE CHANGE IN DOC’S DISPUTE, OBAMA OFFICIALS TESTIFY
(10/3/2017) – Top health officials from the Obama administration testified Tuesday (Oct. 3) that Sen. Robert Menendez pressured them to change a long-standing Medicare policy in a way that would benefit the Florida ophthalmologist at the center of the New Jersey Democrat’s corruption trial.
Then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the highest-level Obama official to testify in the case, took the stand Tuesday to describe a meeting she had with Menendez in the office of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Prosecutors’ previously filed brief said that meeting was held in August 2012 and alleged Menendez “personally pressured” Sebelius to intervene over a Medicare payment policy, though Sebelius balked.
To read the Fox News story, click here.
MENENDEZ HAS SET A NEW LOW FOR BLATANT CORRUPTION IN THE U.S.
(9/30/2017) – The bribery trial of senior New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez has it all.
Menendez is facing charges that he sold his U.S. Senate office to a Palm Beach, Fla., eye doctor, his co-defendant Salomon Melgen, for bribes in the form of private jets stocked with Menendez’s favorite beverages, a private villa at one of the lushest resorts in the Caribbean, and a Paris hotel suite for which Melgen spent 650,000 American Express points.
That relationship allowed Menendez to enjoy a lifestyle far beyond his legitimate income of $174,000. It was a life of luxury funded by one of the largest Medicare frauds in history, a $105 million scheme for which Melgen has already been convicted on 67 counts of fraud in a separate federal trial in Florida.
In return, Menendez allegedly got Melgen visas for his girlfriends, pressured the State Department to deliver a Dominican port-security contract and pressed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve the massive Medicare overbilling scheme that kept the good times rolling.
To read the full New York Post story, click here.
BERNIE SANDERS ON MENENDEZ TRIAL: ‘LET THE PROCESS TAKE ITS COURSE’
(10/01/2017) – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday said his colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez, deserves “due process” when asked whether the New Jersey Democrat should resign if convicted of corruption charges.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa — I think, in this country, people are entitled to due process,” Sanders told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I’m not into speculating … if that will be Menendez’s decision. He has not been convicted. Let the process take its course,” the Vermont senator said.
To read this article from The Hill, click here.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ’S TRIAL BY THE NUMBERS
(09/29/2017) – CNN is updating a weekly list derived from the court proceedings of the Bob Menendez trial for corruption.
MENENDEZ’S ATTORNEY SAID HE MAY TAKE THE STAND
Abbe Lowell (in photo with Sen. Menendez), leading Menendez’s legal defense, said last week the senator may testify while arguing jurors need to understand the scandal’s full context, including claims that Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen visited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.
The prostitution claims were never proven, but initial reporting spurred Menendez to repay Melgen for two previously undisclosed private jet flights costing nearly $70,000 and triggered a federal probe that uncovered more flights and other exchanges of gifts and favors.
For the full story from the Washington Examiner, click here.
N.J. VOTERS OVERWHELMINGLY WANT SEN. BOB MENENDEZ TO RESIGN IF HE IS CONVICTED OF BRIBERY
New Jersey voters overwhelmingly want Sen. Bob Menendez to resign if he is convicted of bribery charges, and those with an unfavorable opinion of the Paramus Democrat outnumber those with a favorable view by more than 2-to-1, a Suffolk University poll conducted for the USA TODAY Network in New Jersey found.
MENENDEZ DONOR’S REP ‘THREATENED’ U.S. OFFICIAL
When a wealthy donor to Sen. Bob Menendez asked government officials for help in a contract dispute and was rebuffed, the donor’s representative responded with bluster and threats, claiming he had political connections that could “cause a lot of problems,” a U.S. Commerce Department official testified Monday.
The official, Scott Smith, told jurors he took the comment to refer to Menendez.
‘HE MAY BE A SLEAZE, BUT HE’S OUR SLEAZE’
The trial has become a war of attrition between the prosecution and defense, writes a columnist for NJ.com.
The prosecution seeks to pound into the heads of the juries all of the instances in which the senator got treatment that few of us will ever experience. All came courtesy of his friendship with a Florida eye doctor who was found guilty last spring of 67 counts of defrauding Medicare of $105 million.
The defense is doing a masterful job at raising questions about each of the allegations. When he stayed with the doctor at that ultra-luxury suite in the Dominican Republic, how do we know he didn’t pick up his own tab with cash?
[PHOTO AT TOP of Sen. Menendez surrounded by his son and daughter outside the courthouse on the first day of trial.]