A federal corruption case against Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey has ended in a mistrial.
Menendez was accused of accepting bribes from his longtime friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen of Florida. On Nov. 16, Judge William H. Walls declared a mistrial after the jury informed him that it could not come to a unanimous verdict.
"We have each tried to look at this case from different viewpoints but still feel strongly in our positions, nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions," the jurors wrote in a note.
"I find that you are unable to reach a verdict and that further deliberations would be futile and there is no alternative but to declare a mistrial," Walls said after interviewing the jurors.
The Department of Justice charged Menendez and Melgen with 18 counts of conspiracy, bribery and making false statements in Senate financial disclosures. Menendez was accused of accepting over $600,000 in payments and luxurious perks from Melgen in exchange for making political decisions that benefited the Florida-based ophthalmologist.
Over the course of an 11-week trial, Menendez's attorneys argued in court that the senator simply had a close friendship with Melgen and that there was no quid pro quo between them.
Following the announcement of a mistrial, Menendez spoke with reporters outside of the courthouse. The New Jersey Democrat blasted the DOJ, arguing that he had been unfairly prosecuted.
"The way this case started was wrong, the way it was investigated was wrong, the way it was prosecuted was wrong, and the way it was tried was wrong as well," Menendez said.
"To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are, and I won't forget you," the senator added.
Senate Democrats were reportedly concerned that Menendez would be convicted of the charges and forced to resign from his seat. If Menendez had been expelled from the chamber, GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey would have been able to appoint Menendez's successor, who would have presumably been a Republican.
"Theoretically, it's certainly a possibility," political science professor Ross Baker of Rutgers University told Politico of the potential for Christie to handpick New Jersey's next senator. "And it's the kind of thing that gives [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer bad dreams."
Following Walls' announcement of a mistrial, the Senate Majority Leader, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Menendez for potential violations, CNN reports.
"[Menendez] is one of only 12 U.S. Senators to have been indicted in our history," McConnell said in a statement. "His trial shed light on serious accusations of violating the public's trust as an elected official, as well as potential violations of the Senate's Code of Conduct."
DOJ spokesperson Nicole Navas told reporters: "The Department will carefully consider next steps in this important matter and report to the court at the appropriate time."
Ed Norris, a 49-year-old juror in the Menendez case, disclosed after the announcement of a mistrial that he did not support a guilty verdict.
"I just wish there was stronger evidence," Norris told The New York Times. "I just didn't see a smoking gun. They didn't prove it to us."
On Oct. 25, a Quinnipiac University Poll found that 31 percent of New Jersey voters approved of Menendez's job performance while 49 percent disapproved; furthermore, 59 percent of respondents said that Menendez did not deserve to be reelected in 2018, The Hill reports.