The Justice Department declared a mistrial Wednesday in the years-long case against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, effectively ending his legal battle. Menendez was facing charges of conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud, CNN reports.
It was alleged that he asked high-ranking members of the Obama administration to assist his friend Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida opthamologist, with his business disputes. In exchange, Menendez supposedly received political favors and free rides on Melgen’s private jet that were not included on Menendez’s Senate disclosure form. The charges against both men were dropped. They both pleaded not guilty to all charges at the beginning of the trial.
“Given the impact of the Court’s Jan. 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,” DOJ spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman said.
Menendez, speaking outside of the court house on Wednesday, expressed his relief. “From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail.” Last fall, after an 11-week trial that resulted in a hung jury, he criticized the Justice Department. “Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot understand or, even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up and be a US senator and be honest.”
After the announcement by the DOJ Wednesday afternoon, Menendez tweeted “No matter the challenges ahead, I will never stop fighting for New Jersey and the values we share.”