United States prosecutors drop corruption case against Sen. Menendez

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez

In a big personal victory for Senator Robert Menendez - and, indirectly, for Democratic hopes of a successful 2018 midterm election - the Department of Justice has formally filed a court motion to drop its corruption case against the embattled New Jersey lawmaker.

In a written statement, the government on Wednesday asked US District Court Judge Jose Linares to drop the rest of the charges and dismiss the indictment against the senator in a federal court in New Jersey, Efe reported.

The jury deadlocked in November, prompting the presiding judge to declare a mistrial after Menendez spent years fighting the charges.

Now, Menendez will have some time to fix his standing among voters, while Republicans decide whether it's worth the trouble to find a viable challenger and launch an expensive effort to oust him in a bad year and a bad state for them.

On Jan 19, the department said it meant to retry Menendez, a Democratic senator, and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, on bribery and corruption charges. "He did not ever give anything to his best friend of over 20 years with an expectation that he would get something in return", Ogrosky said. Eleven charges remained, including bribery, fraud and conspiracy.

Last week the judge threw out the bribery counts related to Melgen's campaign donations.

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Jurors told reporters as many as 10 members of the panel were in favor of acquittal on all counts, leading many to speculate the government wouldn't pursue a retrial. Walls ruled that prosecutors failed to meet a higher legal standard for campaign contributions: that they were exchanged for a specific action. He also faced a false-statements count.

Mintz noted that a recent Supreme Court decision had curtailed the reach of some corruption laws, requiring prosecutors to show a direct quid pro quo between gifts accepted by a public official and official acts. "There were no wiretaps, conversations, videos or cooperating witnesses".

Another former US prosecutor, Lee Vartan, said that the case was weak from the start and that the Justice Department shouldn't have pursued a retrial.

"Anyone who works in this world was surprised this case was brought", he said.

Though Melgen was convicted previous year of a almost $9 million Medicare fraud, prosecutors said Menendez had tried to make the case go away by reaching out to top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, including the agency's secretary at the time, Kathleen Sebelius.

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