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Judge Declares Mistrial In Menendez Bribery Trial After Jury Says They're Deadlocked

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A judge declared a mistral Thursday after the jury said they were deadlocked in the trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.

The jury sent a note to the judge shortly before noon saying they were deadlocked.

The judge then interviewed the jury and declared a mistrial.

Menendez is charged with accepting gifts from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in exchange for political influence.

Menendez cried outside the court after the decision, thanking his family, attorneys, fellow Senators Cory Booker and Lindsey Graham, and "hundreds of New Jerseyans" who expressed their support, among others.

"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. "Certain elements of the FBI and of our state can not understand or even accept that a Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up to be a United States Senator and be honest. I can't even begin to tell you how many people have come to tell me that the FBI went to them and asked them 'What can you give us on Menendez.' That is not what the FBI and Department of Justice is supposed to be doing. And they are not supposed to be leaking to the press during the early stages of an investigation, which violated my rights to a fair process. I've made my share of mistakes, but my mistakes were not a crime."

Menendez said the trial also taught him about "the incredible weight and power of the federal government and how it can crush you if it wants to."

"To those New Jerseyans who gave me the benefit of the doubt, I thank you," he said. "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."

"This jury could not, would not and did not return a verdict that validated any of the government's charges," said Menendez's attorney Abbe Lowell. "And at the end of the day, the fundamental reason for that is this is what happens when you put a real, 25-year friendship on trial."

"The Department of Justice appreciates the jury's service in this lengthy trial." said Nicole Navas Oxman of the Department of Justice. "The Department will carefully consider next steps in this important matter and report to the Court at the appropriate time."

Juror Ed Norris said the jury was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of a not guilty verdict.

"I just didn't see anything, when the prosecution rested, I didn't see anything that was concrete to say 'I thought there was more to it.' I just thought, in my gut, I was like, 'That's it? That's all they had?' and I didn't want to change," said juror Ed Norris. "We just had enough of being deadlocked... we were over it."

"I totally thought they were friends, long-time friends," Norris said. "I didn't think there was anything bad that he did. I just didn't see it."

Deliberations began on Nov. 6, but the jury restarted Monday after a juror was excused for a previously scheduled vacation and was replaced by an alternate.

The jury deliberated all day Tuesday and Wednesday without sending any notes to U.S. District Judge William Walls, a possible indication that they understand the legal principles of the case but are entrenched in their positions.

On Monday, they had sent Walls a note saying they were deadlocked, but he told them to keep going and to "take as much time as you need." Defense attorneys felt other parts of Walls' instruction implied that they needed to reach a verdict one way or another.

They have asked the judge to instruct the jury that a deadlock can be an acceptable outcome.

Walls could instruct the jury that they can reach a verdict on some counts but not others. He also could give them what is referred to as an Allen charge, named after the defendant in a more than century-old case. It is given to a deadlocked jury and urges jurors who are voting against the majority to reconsider their positions to avoid a mistrial.

Menendez and Melgen each face about a dozen counts including bribery, fraud and conspiracy. Menendez also is charged with making false statements for failing to report Melgen's gifts on Senate disclosure forms.

Both men deny the allegations. Defense attorneys sought to show jurors that the two men are longtime pals who exchanged gifts out of friendship. They also contended Menendez's meetings with government officials were focused on broad policy issues.

A mistrial aids Menendez by not subjecting him to pressure to step down in the event of a conviction. Conversely, the charges may be hanging over him as he seeks re-election next year, assuming the government seeks a retrial.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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