Amid allegations of sexual assault against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, a scandal centered on a Democratic senator is getting little notice.
But that might change, as a jury in New Jersey reported Monday being deadlocked on all 12 counts in the case against Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
In a note to U.S. District Judge William Walls, jurors wrote that they “can’t reach a unanimous verdict.”
“Is there any additional guidance and what do we do now?” the foreman asked the judge in his note around 2 p.m., explaining the group could not reach a verdict on any of the counts.
Walls ordered the seven-woman, five-man jury home for the day to “clear their heads” and to continue deliberating until they reach a verdict in the trial of the Democratic senator.
“Go home and have a good meal and have a good sleep,” Walls told the jury.
Monday marks the 11th week of the trial.
Last week, jury member Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby was dismissed from the case so she could go on vacation with her family. Her dismissal prompted the judge to tell the jury to restart deliberations.
Arroyo-Maultsby, formerly juror No. 8, revealed to the media after she was dismissed that she believed Menendez had done nothing wrong, that the jurors were divided over the multi-count indictment Menendez is facing and predicted “it’s going to be a hung jury.”
“(Prosecutors) just didn’t show me enough, and I just wish I wasn’t going on vacation,” Arroyo-Maultsby said. “I would’ve been fighting in that jury room.”
Menendez told reporters while headed into court Monday that he “wished she hadn’t left.”
“I wish her a great vacation, I wish she hadn’t left, but I hope that no juror in the jury room feels bullied by another juror,” Menendez said. “I’m concerned about some of the comments she made … the environment in the jury room.”
Jurors have been repeatedly instructed not to read reports about the case. Yet, four jurors and three alternative jurors told Judge Walls that they saw news about the trial over the weekend.
Walls pressed them to provide details about whether they heard or read Arroyo-Maultsby’s comments to the press in his chambers, but ultimately none were dismissed after further questioning.
“You are starting fresh,” Walls told the jury Monday. “Forget about what happened last week. This is the jury.”
When the jury announced it couldn’t agree, Menendez’s attorney argued the judge should declare an immediate mistrial.
Prosecutors argued the jury had only begun its re-deliberating three hours earlier and that the alternate juror on the panel should have more time to deliberate.
“I think it would be appropriate that they continue their deliberations,” Walls said.
Menendez addressed a gaggle of reporters outside the courthouse, thanking the the jurors, who he said “clearly” believe in his innocence.
“I would hope that at the end of the day, after they finish tomorrow, that those who continue to believe in my innocence will stand strong,” he said. “And, at the end of the day, no juror will be coerced into a decision.”
Menendez is charged with taking bribes from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen for political influence.
The Justice Department’s 18-count public corruption indictment accuses Menendez of accepting more than $750,000 in political contributions, free rides on a private jet and stays in swanky hotel suites in Paris from Melgen.
Prosecutors have accused Menendez of trying to hide the gifts.
Menendez allegedly helped Melgen in return by lobbying on behalf of Melgen’s business interests, helping obtain visas for several of Melgen’s girlfriends and lobbying State Department officials for a $500 million port security contract that Melgen’s company had with the Dominican Republic.
The New Jersey Democrat is also accused of using his office to attempt to dissuade the Department of Health and Human Services from moving to collect the more than $8 million that Melgen had overbilled Medicare.
Following a lengthy FBI criminal probe, Menendez was indicted in April 2015 for allegedly making official acts on Melgen’s behalf.
Melgen is at the center of the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history.
In April, he was convicted on 67 counts of Medicare fraud in a separate court case in West Palm Beach, Florida, for bilking the government to the tune of $105 million.
Prosecutors have recommended a 30-year sentence in that case, but his sentencing has been delayed until after the Menendez trial.