Jurors in the corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen are set to resume deliberations on Monday after failing to reach a verdict in their first three days behind closed doors.
Jurors have the day off on Friday for Veterans Day. On Monday the jurors will start deliberations from the beginning once an alternate juror is seated to replace another who was excused due to vacation plans. During the trial’s outset, in early September, the judge promised the juror she would not miss her pre-planned vacation, in an apparent underestimation of how long the trial would take.
The excused juror said she felt the senator was not guilty and that the majority of jurors agreed with her, according to an article from NorthJersey.com that was emailed to reporters by Menendez’s campaign late Thursday.
The juror, identified as Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby, said she believes the trial will end in a hung jury, and described the atmosphere in the jury room as “very stressful,” the article said.
Arroyo-Maultsby said, according to the report, said the prosecution was “railroading” Menendez. “When they said that it was going to be conspiracy, that they planned this, that’s to me, I don’t see that. That’s a friendship.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Walls of the District of New Jersey received a note from the jury, seeking clarification on the role of a senator and a repeat of closing comments on that subject from Abbe Lowell, Menendez’s lawyer. Walls denied the requests on the grounds that a lawyer’s comments are not evidence.
The question was an apparent reference to Lowell’s comment that Menendez “did not have the power to fix the issues in the agencies by himself. In other words, he could ask people to look at, please consider, give consideration for a visa. At the end of the day, it was their decision to make.”
Prosecutors have portrayed Menendez as selling his influence in exchange for a lavish lifestyle he could not afford, while the defense in the case has maintained that the senator has benefited from Melgen’s generosity because the two are friends.
The indictment charges that Menendez accepted nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen, including lodgings at luxury hotels and flights in Melgen’s private jet and on commercial airlines. The indictment claims that Menendez’s assistance to Melgen in a dispute with the Medicare program and the senator’s attempts to advocate with federal officials on behalf of Melgen’s port security business were provided in exchange for the gifts. The indictment also charges that Menendez helped obtain U.S. visas for three friends of Melgen.