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Justice Department To Retry Sen. Robert Menendez And Friend In Corruption Case

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in front of the courthouse in Newark, N.J., after the judge in the case declared a mistrial.
Seth Wenig
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in front of the courthouse in Newark, N.J., after the judge in the case declared a mistrial.

The Department of Justice intends to retry Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Salomon Melgen, after a federal judge declared a mistrial in the bribery and fraud case.

The notice, filed Friday, was brief and requested a retrial "at the earliest possible date."

"The decision to retry this case was made based on the facts and the law, following a careful review," the department explained in a statement. "The conduct alleged in the indictment is serious and warrants retrial before a jury of citizens in the District of New Jersey."

Justice Department prosecutors had accused Menendez and Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, of engaging in a bribery scheme that lasted seven years, trading gifts and trips for government favors.

As Joseph Hernandez of member station WHYY has reported:

"Melgen flew Menendez around on his private jet, paid for the senator to travel to Paris and the Dominican Republic, and gave handsome political contributions to groups that benefited Menendez.

"In return, the government alleged, Menendez helped Melgen secure travel visas for his foreign girlfriends, intervened on the doctor's behalf in an $8.9 million Medicare overbilling case and tried to sort out a contract dispute at one of Melgen's companies in the Dominican Republic."

But in November a 12-person jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the bribery, conspiracy, fraud or false statements charges facing the two men.

At the time, Menendez issued a statement to his detractors: "To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won't forget you," he said.

Menendez is the son of Cuban immigrants and has long been held up as a hero within the Cuban community in northern Jersey where he grew up. Union City, where the senator served as mayor, is home to so many Cubans its nickname is "Havana on the Hudson."

A retrial now could jeopardize Menendez's bid for reelection this year.

Both defendants have denied committing any crimes, saying instead that the exchanges between them are explained by their close friendship.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.