Senator Bob Menendez won a major victory in November, when a judge declared a mistrial in the corruption case against him, and on Wednesday, the New Jersey Democrat won another: The Justice Department filed to dismiss the corruption charges against him, effectively closing his case—and highlighting the growing difficulty of successfully convicting public officials of corruption.
Menendez’s weeks-long trial, which culminated in November with a hung jury, took up the issue of whether the senator had accepted expensive gifts and vacations from his frequent donor and friend, Salomon Melgen, a wealthy ophthalmologist, in exchange for political favors. The prosecution argued that the lavish gifts given to the senator amounted to bribery, while Menendez maintained that the two were merely close friends and that the things he agreed to do for Melgen were not “official acts.” In the end, the jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous decision, and it was dismissed as a mistrial.
The Justice Department had originally intended to retry the case, but after a judge acquitted Menendez of seven of the 18 charges facing him on January 24, they decided against it. “I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion,” said Menendez in a statement.