Politics

Menendez Jury Will Have to Start Over

With juror leaving for vacation, alternate will step in next week

The jury debating the legal fate of Sen. Robert Menendez will need to start its deliberations anew. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Jury deliberations in the federal corruption trial against Sen. Robert Menendez will have to start over.

That’s the word from the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J., where the Democratic senator has been on trial on a total of 18 counts related to alleged public corruption, including allegations he took a slew of gifts for official acts.

The possibility of the jury having to begin its work again became real because of the unexpectedly long duration of the trial, with arguments going on for 10 weeks. One of the jurors had a pre-planned vacation next week.

Senior Judge William H. Walls, who has presided over the case, had promised that juror she would be allowed to be dismissed for the vacation. The lack of a verdict Thursday leading into the Veterans Day holiday means one of the alternate jurors would likely need to be brought into the deliberations, resetting the process.

That’s what reporters who have been on the trial beathave now said will happen next week.

Menendez has been on trial alongside Salomon Melgen, the South Florida ophthalmologist who showered the senator with gifts in a fashion that the government lawyers contend was illegal.

The combination of the length of the trial and the new complications with the jury deliberations have already pushed the verdict past New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, with Democrat Phil Murphy winning the race.

That could make it all the more likely that Menendez would resist calls by Republicans to resign if convicted, since stalling the process until Murphy takes office in Trenton would ensure a Democrat holds the seat.

Speaking with local television stations outside the courthouse, the excused juror said the jury was currently hung.

“They’re not sure. They’re still going through all documents to see if they can see if there’s anything wrong,” she said. “What I saw? The government didn't give me enough.”

“I think the defense showed me enough to say he’s not guilty on every count,” the juror said.

Asked what within the jury room might have been most favorable to the prosecution, she seemed to point to the final count regarding Senate financial disclosures.

“I think it was mostly the financial report, about him not signing his financial report,” she said.

But, the dismissed juror also seemed to dispute the need to report the meals and travel benefits received from Melgen at all.

“If this man wants to take him on any flight, and that’s his friend, why does it have to be a gift?” she said.

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