Nov. 13 (UPI) — Jurors in the corruption case against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez told the judge they were deadlocked Monday.
U.S. District Judge William Walls read a note from the 12 jurors stating they failed to reach a unanimous decision after about 2 hours of deliberation.
“As of 2 p.m., on behalf of all jurors, we cannot reach a unanimous decision on any of the charges. Is there any additional guidance? What do we do now?” the note read.
Menendez, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in April 2015 on 14 felony counts of illegally accepting gifts and political contributions from Florida eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen, who’s was charged with 76 counts of Medicare fraud for stealing up to $ 190 million from the program.
After receiving the note, Walls re-read the jurors instructions on how they should reach a verdict and sent them home an hour early to rest before returning to court on Tuesday.
“I want you to cease your deliberations, go home and have a good meal and a good sleep. And I want you to come back here tomorrow to continue deliberations,” he said.
The jury’s notice came after the judge excused a juror Thursday to go on vacation.
Walls encouraged the jury to put their past experiences behind them and “start fresh” with the new alternate juror.
“You are starting fresh,” the judge said. “Forget about what happened last week. This is the jury.”
Menedez said he wished the dismissed juror, who was adamant the senator is not guilty in the midst of “very tense” deliberations, hadn’t left.
“I wish her a great vacation, I wish she hadn’t left, but I hope that no juror in the jury room feels bullied by another juror,” he said. “I’m concerned about some of the comments she made … the environment in the jury room.”
Menendez’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, called for Walls to declare a mistrial, pointing out the jury had already deliberated for several days before changing jurors.
“Under the circumstances and given all that’s occurred, it seems to me we should take them at their word, bring them back in, thank them for their service and declare a mistrial,” Lowell said.
Lead prosecutor Peter Koski noted the jury had only been deliberating for a few hours in its current construction.
“Two to 3 hours after a nine-week trial. My recommendation is that the jury be sent back to continue deliberating,” Koski said.