In the first prosecution of a sitting U.S. senator in nearly a decade, a federal judge in Newark, N.J., declared a mistrial Thursday in the case against Robert Menendez, who was accused of trading political favors for trips and other gifts.
The declaration came after jurors sent a note to the judge Thursday morning saying they were deadlocked on all 18 counts in the case, including bribery, fraud and making false statements. It was the second time this week the jurors had indicated they were unable to reach a verdict.
The outcome could have significant political and legal implications, possibly giving Democrats more hope of holding on to the Senate seat in the 2018 midterm election but raising questions about the ability of federal prosecutors to try other public officials accused of corruption.
Menendez, a two-term Democratic senator who once served as chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was charged in 2015 with engaging in a years-long corruption scheme that included accepting a series of lavish gifts from Salomon Melgen, a wealthy ophthalmologist from West Palm Beach, who was convicted in a separate trial on 67 counts of Medicare fraud. Menendez was also accused of using his influence to exert pressure on officials in Washington on Melgen’s behalf.