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New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez 'Dodges Bullet' in Mistrial

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

In the criminal defense world, a 10-2 deadlock is a pretty big win.

A complete acquittal would be like a home run, but jurors voted 10-2 and sent a big message to the prosecutors in United States of America v. Menendez. Don't try it again.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, whose bribery case ended in a mistrial, hopes the Department of Justice doesn't refile charges against him. But for Senate Democrats, the mistrial was a ticket to the big game where they need every vote.

Bribery and Fraud

Menendez, a 63-year-old career politician, made it to the U.S. Senate in 2006. Charged with multiple counts of bribery and fraud, he was the first sitting Senator to face such charges in 36 years.

Prosecutors called him the "personal senator" to Dr. Salomon Melgen, alleging the two traded government favors for lavish gifts and other benefits. Melgen was found guilty of health care-related fraud.

The two-and-a-half month criminal trial in Newark has ended, but another trial awaits in Washington. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants the ethics committee to investigate.

"Dodged a Bullet"

The Washington Post said Senate Democrats "dodged a bullet" with the mistrial. It was about timing.

New Jersey's Republic Gov. Chris Christie is being replaced in January by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, who is a Democrat. Had Menendez been convicted, Christie would have had a chance to replace him with a Republican.

As a result, the pendulum of power would have swung further to the right: Republicans 53; Democrats 47. For now, Menendez has time to cast some votes of his own.

A Rutgers University law school grad, Menendez was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1980 and became an attorney soon after. He had already set his course in politics and later became the sixth Latino to serve in the U.S. Senate.

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