The Justice Department has filed a motion seeking dismissal of the indictment against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.
“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,” Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas said in a statement, according to Politico.
This decision comes just weeks after the acting chief of the department’s public integrity section, AnnaLou Tirol, signed a notice calling for a retrial.
Last week, a federal judge acquitted Menendez and Saloman Melgen on seven of the 18 counts of indictment for which they were tried last year.
“The government asks the court and a jury to fashion speculative inferences under the conclusory generalizations of context, chronology, escalation, concealment, and a pattern of corrupt activity — each of which is empty of relevant evidential fact,’’ Judge William Walls said while dismissing the seven charges, according to The Washington Post. He then quoted Gertrude Stein and added, “There is no there there.’’
The original case against Menendez and co-defendant Melgen ended in a mistrial in November.
Over 100 witnesses and thousands of documents were included in the first trial, according to Politico.
Mendendez faced an 18-count indictment including six counts of bribery, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy, one count of interstate travel to carry out bribery and one count of making false statements on a congressional financial disclosure to conceal the crimes.
The most serious, making false statements to conceal the crimes, carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to The Record.
“Menendez, 63, accepted an abundance of campaign donations, gifts and vacations from Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist. In return, Menendez used his position to lobby on behalf of Melgen’s business interests, according to prosecutors,” Fox News reported.
Melgen allegedly directed more than $750,000 in campaign contributions to Menendez, who is currently serving in his second term in Senate.
Menedenz had a strong message for any Democrat seeking to take his Senate seat while he was on trial:
“To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won’t forget you.”
The notice of retrial published two-weeks ago read: “Defendants Robert Menendez and Salomon Melgen have been indicted for bribery and corruption by two separate grand juries properly impaneled in the District of New Jersey. The first trial ended in a mistrial with a deadlocked jury. An early retrial date is in the best interests of the public, and the United States is available to schedule a retrial at the Court’s earliest convenience.”
Now the Department of Justice has changed their minds on the retrial, and seeks the dismissal of the indictment, according to a court filing Wednesday.
“From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail,” Menendez said in response to the reversal, according to The Washington Post. “I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion.”
New Jersey’s senior senator plans to run for reelection this year.
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