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Saturday, Dec 16, 2017
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New Jersey senator's bribery trial ends in a hung jury

NEWARK, N.J. — The federal bribery trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended Thursday with the jury hopelessly deadlocked on all charges, a partial victory for him that could nevertheless leave the case hanging over his head as he gears up for re-election to a sharply divided Senate.

U.S. District Judge William Walls declared a mistrial after more than six full days of deliberations failed to produce a verdict on any of the 18 counts against the New Jersey politician or his co-defendant, a wealthy Florida eye doctor accused of buying Menendez's influence by plying him with luxury vacations and campaign contributions.

Prosecutors would not say whether they plan to retry Menendez. But on the political front, forces were already mobilizing against him, with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately calling for an ethics investigation of him. The ethics committee said Thursday it would resume an inquiry into Menendez that started in 2012 and was deferred a year later because of the criminal investigation.

Outside the courthouse, a choked-up Menendez fought back tears as he blasted federal authorities for bringing the case and thanked the jurors in the 2½-month trial "who saw through the government's false claims and used their Jersey common sense to reject it."

"Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot stand, or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County could grow up to be a United States senator and be honest," said the 63-year-old son of Cuban immigrants who is up for re-election next year.

Jury member Edward Norris said 10 jurors wanted to acquit Menendez on all charges, while two held out for conviction.

Menendez was accused of selling his political influence to Dr. Salomon Melgen for vacations in the Caribbean and Paris, flights on Melgen's jet and hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to campaign organizations that supported the senator directly or indirectly.

In return, prosecutors said, Menendez pressured government officials on Melgen's behalf over an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and a stalled contract to provide port screening equipment in the Dominican Republic, and also helped obtain U.S. visas for the 63-year-old doctor's girlfriends.

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