Mistrial declared in Menendez bribery trial

Last Updated Nov 16, 2017 7:44 PM EST

The judge in the bribery trial for Sen. Bob Menendez has declared a mistrial, after jurors were unable to reach a verdict for more than a week.

Shortly before noon, the jurors sent a note to the judge saying they are deadlocked, as they determine the fate of the New Jersey Democrat accused of accepting gifts from wealthy donor Salomon Melgen in exchange for political influence. Menendez' defense lawyer on Thursday asked Judge William Walls to declare a mistrial in the case, and an attorney for co-defendant Melgen asked the judge to poll the jury individually to confirm the deadlock. Federal prosecutors asked Walls to give the jury more time to deliberate and to give them partial verdict instructions, but Walls said he wouldn't do that.

The only juror to speak to reporters, 49-year-old equipment manager Ed Norris of Roxbury, said the jury was 10-2 in favor of acquittal on about all of the 18 charges.

Speaking to reporters after the mistrial decision, Menendez thanked his family for their support, breaking down in front of the cameras. He also thanked Melgen's family. He also thanked his defense team as they "methodically tore apart the government's case."

"I want to thank the jury ... who saw through the government's false claims," Menendez added, thanking them for their "service" and their "sacrifice."

He also thanked Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who both testified in the trial.

"The way this case started was wrong. The way it was investigated was wrong. The way it was prosecuted was wrong. And the way it was tried was wrong as well," Menendez said.

Menendez said there is nowhere he can go to restore his reputation.

"What department is it that it replaces it?" Menendez said.

Menendez said to those who abandoned him in his darkest moment, he forgives them; to those who believed him, he loves them; to those who gave him the benefit of the doubt, he loves them.

Menendez also explained why he did not testify, saying that testimony would have taken days.

"There is nothing more than I wanted to do but to tell my story," he said. 

Menendez said he looks forward to returning to Washington.

Deliberations began Nov. 6. On Monday the jury told the judge they were deadlocked, but he told them to keep going. They deliberated Tuesday, Wednesday and some of Thursday morning without reaching a unanimous verdict against the New Jersey Democrat and the Florida eye doctor.

Menendez and Melgen each face roughly a dozen counts, including charges of conspiracy and bribery. The co-defendants have pointed to their longtime friendship as a defense in the case, saying gifts like trips on Melgen's private jet and a luxury hotel stay in Paris were because of that friendship.

It's unclear yet what the next step for Menendez is. Menendez continues to tweet, even as recently as Thursday. He is up for re-election in 2018.