After days of deliberations in New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal trial on corruption charges, jurors announced Monday that they were deadlocked on each count of the indictment.
U.S. District Judge William Walls ordered the jury to keep deliberating, though the impasse is a promising sign for Menendez.
The embattled Democrat faces 20 years in prison if convicted. He previously vowed not to resign if convicted, and Senate Democrats have given no indication that they would join with Republicans in voting to expel him from the chamber.
Should the jury remain at an impasse, Walls could declare a mistrial. In that instance, federal prosecutors would have to decide whether to bring another case against him.
Menendez’s indictment was perhaps the highest profile corruption case that federal prosecutors have pursued in over a decade. The charges included 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 federally-mandated financial disclosures forms.
The U.S. Supreme Court established in the 2016 case McDonnell v. U.S. that public officials only violate anti-corruption laws when they accept gifts, payments, or benefits in exchange for a specific and official act. Menendez’s lawyers argued that the government failed to show that the senator took specific and official actions as the result of a donor’s gifts. Prosecutors put forward a “stream of benefits” theory of their case, in which they say Menendez performed favors for a donor over a period of years in exchange for lavish benefits like vacations and charter flights. Though the senator’s acts and the donor’s gifts may not chronologically coincide, prosecutors say their relationship was still corrupt.
If he is convicted, Menendez could then appeal to the 3nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court based in Philadelphia.
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