- Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is facing 12 counts of bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and making false statements to the government, and could face nearly two decades in prison.
- The jury on his case said Monday it is deadlocked, and needs more advice on how to proceed.
- The judge has given them more time, but if they still can’t decide in a few days, he may declare a mistrial.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is facing criminal corruption charges and up to 20 years in prison over an alleged bribery scandal involving a wealthy donor and friend.
But on Monday, the jury on the case said it can’t decide on a verdict. The jury will return on Tuesday to continue deliberations. It now has a just a few days before US District Court Judge William Walls could declare a mistrial, which would be a major victory for the embattled Democratic senator.
If Menendez steers clear of a conviction, he will be able to run for re-election in the 2018 mid-terms. Last month, he told CNN that he expects that to be the case.
“I have no intention of being anything but exonerated,” Menendez said. “So therefore, I’m not contemplating anything but reelection next year.”
On the other hand, a conviction could reshape New Jersey’s political future.
If Menendez is forced to resign or expelled from the Senate before next year, Gov. Chris Christie could appoint a replacement, which would likely be a Republican and a supporter of President Donald Trump. That would widen the Republicans’ current majority in the Senate.
Until a mistrial or verdict is declared, the makeup of the Senate, however, will continue to hang in the air.
Menendez is accused of using his political influence in the Senate in exchange for accepting $US1 million worth of lavish gifts and donations from one of his friends, Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor from Florida.
In 2015, the US Department of Justice indicted Menendez and Melgen on more than a dozen counts of conspiracy, bribery, fraud, and making false statements to the government.
The DOJ cites three ways Menendez used his power to influence policy from 2006 to 2013: pressuring executive agencies that were in a contract dispute with Melgen, advocating on Melgen’s behalf in favour of a Medicare billing dispute, and helping secure visas for Melgen’s girlfriends.
In return, Melgen allegedly showered Menendez with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, private flights, vacations, and hotel rooms. Menendez never reported these gifts on his federal financial disclosure forms. He has denied all accusations.
In total, Menendez faces six counts of bribery, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy, one count of interstate travel to carry out bribery, and one count of making false statements on government forms, local newspaper The Record reported.
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