Justice Dept to Retry Sen. Menendez on Corruption Charges

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez leaves the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J., Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(CN) – The Justice Department announced Friday that it will retry Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., after a jury deadlock resulted in a mistrial on corruption charges in November.

Menendez, 63, is accused of using his political influence to help Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in exchange for luxury vacations in the Caribbean and Paris, flights on Melgen’s private jet and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to organizations that supported the senator directly or indirectly.

Prosecutors say 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 doctor’s girlfriends.

But the defense argued during the first trial that the gifts were not bribes but tokens of friendship between two men who were “like brothers.”

Menendez’s lawyers also contended also that the government failed to establish a direct connection between Melgen’s gifts and specific actions taken by the senator.

U.S. District Judge William Walls declared the mistrial on Nov. 16, 2017, after more than six full days of deliberations that had to be re-started midway through when a juror was replaced.

In a statement, the Justice Department note Thursday that Menendez and Melgen had been indicted on charges that included conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud by two separate grand juries.

“The conduct alleged in the indictment is serious and warrants retrial before a jury of citizens in the District of New Jersey,” the statement said. ” The decision to retry this case was made based on the facts and the law, following a careful review.  The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

This story is developing …

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