11pro adidas Justice Department moves to drop corruption case against New Jersey Sen
Sen. Bob Menendez was cleared of the criminal charges that have dogged him for more than two years Wednesday after the Justice Department asked a federal court to dismiss a 2015 indictment that had already been severely weakened. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark.
The government’s motion cited a decision by Judge William H. Walls last week that acquitted Menendez and co defendant Salomon Melgen of seven bribery and fraud counts tied to $660,000 in campaign contributions that helped Menendez get re elected in 2012.
the impact of the court Jan. The two defendants denied the accusations, saying that what the government called bribes were two longtime friends vacationing together.
“From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail,” Menendez, who is running for re election in November, said in a statement. “I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion.”
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Walls’ ruling came after a jury last year could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. Afterward, a juror told reporters that the jury was divided 10 2 in favor of acquitting the senator because the government had not proved its case. But the Justice Department stunned Menendez and his supporters on Jan. 19 when it said it would try him again.
Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor and now the head of the white collar criminal defense practice at the law firm McCarter English,
said the government would have struggled to win a conviction in light of Walls’ ruling last week.
“With no cooperating witness, no tape recordings and no videotapes, this was always going to be a challenging case for the government,” Mintz said. “In the end, the judge decision to dismiss the bribery charges involving political contributions left prosecutors with an even more difficult case and less evidence with which to prove it.”
As part of a federal investigation that began in 2013, Menendez was accused of accepting bribes in the form of campaign contributions and luxury travel in exchange for using his office to promote Melgen’s business and personal interests with officials of President Barack Obama’s administration.
The advocacy included trying to get visas so foreign girlfriends of Melgen, a married eye doctor from Florida, could visit him; challenging Medicare officials about a regulation tied to allegations Melgen overbilled the government by $9 million;
and seeking to get the government to pressure on the Dominican government about a contract to screen outbound cargo held by a company Melgen owned.
Menendez contended he never broke the law, but he did fail to disclose the free trips and other gifts he received from Melgen on his personal financial disclosure forms. The criminal charge that the senator falsified those forms would now be dropped, but the Senate’s ethics committee said after the mistrial last year it was reviving its own investigation into the issue.
“I have devoted my life to serving the people of New Jersey, and am forever thankful for all who have stood by me,” Menendez said Wednesday. “No matter the challenges ahead, I will never stop fighting for New Jersey and the values we share. I am thankful that God has answered my prayers.”
Menendez’s lead attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that the Justice Department made the “right decision to end this case.”
“Despite the five years of this ordeal, Senator Menendez never wavered in his innocence and his commitment to the people of New Jersey,
” Lowell said. “We were fortunate to be able to assist this honorable man.”
Though he has been cleared, the charges and 11 week trial have taken their toll on the 64 year old Democrat.
Menendez is currently one of the least popular senators in the country, with a 29 percent approval rating in the last quarter of 2017, according to Morning Consult, a survey research company. His approval rating fell 20 points in 2017, Morning Consult said, but Wednesday news may give Menendez time to rehabilitate his image before November election.
New Jersey, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 880,000,
has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, but GOP leaders said the dismissal of the charges does not shield Menendez from having to answer to the public.
is the court of public opinion we going into now, said Paul DiGaetano, Republican chairman of Bergen County. discussions I having, I don find anybody who thinks it OK for an elected official to take these lavish gifts from individuals or companies that have issues with the government. has maintained support among Democratic power brokers, however, and they applauded the prosecutors’ decision.
notion to have two extraordinary senators in this state unencumbered, 1,000 percent focused on pushing forth the interests of the 9 million folks who call New Jersey home,
is a new and great day, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said at an unrelated event in Atlantic City on Wednesday.