NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jurors indicated Monday that the just cannot reach a verdict in the federal bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey).
As CBS2’s Meg Bake reported, the jury’s foreman sent a note to the judge Monday afternoon indicating that after hours of deliberation, no unanimous consensus was reachable on any of the charges.
But the judge was not having it, and sent jurors home for the day – ordering them to resume deliberating on Tuesday.
Menendez walked out of court with his head down Monday, not sure what the turn of events would mean for his corruption trial.
What one juror did Thursday while leaving for vacation sent the courtroom into turmoil – something rarely visible to the public.
The judge on Thursday excused juror number eight, Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby, last Thursday so she could go on a long-planned vacation.
“It’s a hung jury right now,” Arroyo-Maultsby said. “They’re not sure. They’re still going through all documents to see if they can see if there’s anything wrong.”
Each juror was asked Monday morning if they saw or heard the weekend’s news about the trial. Four jurors and three alternate jurors raised their hands and were summoned to meet with the judge privately.
Afterward, Arroyo-Maultsby was replaced with a female alternate. The judge told the jury to start deliberating from scratch.
But just after lunch, the jury said it was deadlocked – just as Arroyo-Maultsby reported.
“As I said two and a half years ago when I first faced these charges, I was innocent,” Menendez said, “and clearly, there are jurors believe in my innocence. I want to thank them for that.”
Earlier Monday, the defense argued jury misconduct – quoting the dismissed juror that others on the panel told her that they were “running out on the clock” so her vote would not count – and preventing her from letting the court know that.
“The government didn’t give me enough, so I think the defense showed me enough to say he is not guilty on every count,” Arroyo-Maultsby said.
But as to the call of a mistrial over juror misconduct, the judge said bluntly, “There is no way on God’s green Earth that’s going to happen,” WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
It was 2:30 p.m. Monday when the judge told the jurors to go home, get a breath of fresh air, clear their heads, and come back to start deliberations Tuesday morning.
“I would hope that at end of day after they finish tomorrow that those who continue to believe in my innocence will stand strong, and that at the end of the day, no juror will be coerced into a decision,” Menendez said.
Legal expert Stuart Slotnick said the jury can still reach a fair verdict.
“This is a high-profile case. The jury has been subjected to media every single day. They’ve been ignoring it, and if they can continue to ignore what they hear on TV and what they read in the paper, then they can deliberate and they can come to a verdict,” Slotnick said.
There has been some talk that these events could affect the appeal process.
Prosecutors alleged Menendez and Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, engaged in a bribery scheme between 2006 and 2013 in which Menendez traded his political influence for luxury vacations and flights on the doctor’s private plane.
They 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 have sought to show jurors that the two men are longtime friends who exchanged gifts out of friendship. They also contend Menendez’s meetings with government officials were focused on broad policy issues.
In Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell’s closing argument, he used the words “friend,” “friends” or “friendship” more than 80 times.
In his rebuttal to jurors, federal prosecutor Peter Koski echoed the judge’s instructions that gifts given “both out of friendship and a corrupt intent” can be considered bribes.
Arroyo-Maultsby’s comments appeared to indicate at least some, and possibly a majority, of the jurors may believe the defense’s theory.
The jury has deliberated roughly 15 hours over three full days and part of last Monday. If the newly constituted panel fails to reach a verdict over the next several days, U.S. District Judge William Walls would have to weigh how long to let them continue before declaring a mistrial.
The government then would choose whether to retry the pair.
If Menendez is acquitted, it would reinforce the view that official bribery cases have become more difficult to prosecute, a trend traced to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the bribery conviction of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. That ruling played a significant role in how the jury was instructed in the Menendez trial.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)