NEWARK, N.J. — Federal prosecutors decided Wednesday not to retry Senator Bob Menendez on corruption charges that ended in a hung jury last fall, lifting the legal cloud hanging over the New Jersey Democrat as he gears up for reelection this year.
Prosecutors filed a motion with the court on Wednesday to throw out the case after a judge threw out some of the counts last week. The first trial for Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen ended in a hung jury last November.
Menendez, 64, was charged with trading his political influence for gifts and campaign donations from Melgen, 63. Both had denied the charges.
Last week, the judge threw out the bribery counts related to Melgen’s campaign donations. Eleven charges remained before Wednesday’s decision, including bribery, fraud, and conspiracy.
Defense lawyers had argued Melgen’s donations had to be tied to specific acts by Menendez to be considered bribes. That’s a higher standard than the one applied to gifts Melgen gave to Menendez over the years that are the basis for the bribery charges that remain.
US District Judge William Walls’s ruling essentially overrode the jury, which couldn’t reach a verdict after several days of deliberations in November.
After the mistrial, several jurors said as many as 10 of the 12 panel members were in favor of acquittal, leading some experts to speculate the government wouldn’t pursue a retrial.