NEWARK, N.J. — Jurors finished a second full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict Wednesday in the bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and gave no indication as to which way they might be leaning or what legal issues they are pondering in the jury room.
The only request they made to the judge came shortly after they arrived in the morning, when they asked to leave an hour earlier because of “horrific traffic jams” leaving Newark the day before.
Outside the courthouse, Menendez expressed confidence.
“I have every expectation that based upon all of the facts that have been presented at this trial, if they listen to the law and the facts, I am convinced we will be exonerated, and that’s worth waiting for.”
The New Jersey Democrat is charged with accepting gifts from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen over several years in exchange for helping Melgen advance his business interests by exerting pressure on government officials. The two men face multiple bribery and fraud charges, and Menendez also is charged with making false statements on Senate forms by not disclosing Melgen’s gifts.
The makeup of the Senate could be affected if Menendez is convicted and then voted out by a two-thirds majority, a prospect considered unlikely since it would require more than a dozen Democrats to join the Republican majority.
If Menendez were removed from the Senate, his replacement would be selected by the governor. Democrat Phil Murphy was elected New Jersey governor Tuesday night and will replace Republican Chris Christie in January.
Jury deliberations could experience a hiccup if a verdict isn’t reached by the end of Thursday. The judge has said at that time he will excuse a juror who has an approaching scheduling conflict. In that case, an alternate would replace her and deliberations would start over.
The jury began deliberations late Monday afternoon after hearing nearly eight hours of attorneys’ closing arguments and roughly nine weeks of testimony. They were sent out of the room several times during the trial so attorneys on both sides could engage in legal mud-wrestling over the finer points of federal bribery statutes.
Many of the disputes arose because Menendez’s trial is the first major federal corruption trial since a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling narrowed the definition of what constitutes an “official act” in a bribery scheme and raised the bar for bribery prosecutions.
Walls rejected defense attorneys’ arguments that the Supreme Court ruling invalidated the so-called “stream of benefits” theory, in which specific gifts need not be tied to specific official actions to be considered bribes. Instead, they focused in closing arguments on language from the ruling that requires Menendez to have agreed to take official action at the time a bribery agreement was made.
They claim the prosecution didn’t present evidence of an explicit agreement between the two men. Prosecutors countered that they were only required to demonstrate an implicit agreement.