US Drops Bid to Retry Senator Menendez on Corruption

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez

Bob Menendez, bringing the legal case that has hovered over the New Jersey Democrat for years to a close.

Menendez's first trial ended in a mistrial in November, with 10 of the 12 jurors voting to acquit him, according to a member of the jury.

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The Justice Department, in a statement explaining its decision to drop the case, cited an order last week by trial judge William Walls, who declared Menendez not guilty of seven counts in the indictment lodged against the 64-year-old senator.

"I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail", Menendez said in a statement.

"Given the impact of the court's January 24 order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges", the Justice Department said in a statement.

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Though Melgen was convicted past 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.

Menendez, in turn, allegedly tried to help Melgen get U.S. visas for his girlfriends, brought his influence to bear in an $8.9 million billing dispute with Medicare and helped out with a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

The Justice Department on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss charges against Sen. Prosecutors lacked smoking-gun evidence and failed to prove a corrupt bargain between the senator and the doctor, he said.

Melgen was separately convicted of a Medicare fraud in Florida and is awaiting sentencing in that case in July. Without tapes or a cooperating witness talking about a bribery scheme, the government was forced to make a circumstantial case tying trips to favors.

Prosecutors spent more than two years building their case against Menendez, whose political career was upended in 2015 when a grand jury accused him of effectively selling his office so he could live a life of luxury he couldn't afford.

The senator's attorneys contended Melgen's gifts were tokens of friendship, not bribes, and argued that Menendez's meetings with executive branch officials were focused on broader policy issues than just Melgen's business interests. His poll ratings dipped dramatically during the trial, but he has a formidable network of political allies and $3.9 million on hand in his campaign bank account.

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