Justice Department Moves to Dismiss Menendez Indictment

The Justice Department Wednesday filed to dismiss its remaining charges against Sen. Bob Menendez likely bringing the legal case against the New Jersey Democrat to a close

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they would drop their bribery case against U.S. Sen.

Prosecutors had accused the 64-year-old New Jersey senator of a bribery scheme involving almost $1 million in contributions and gifts from Dr. Melgen.

The move came more than two months after Menendez's first trial on those charges ended in a mistrial when jurors deadlocked on a verdict - and just two weeks after prosecutors said they planned to retry him.

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An earlier attempt to convict the pair ended in a mistrial.

Though prosecutors initially asked for the "earliest possible date" to retry Menendez, Judge Walls threw a wrench in that plan with a ruling on December 24 that dismissed six of the bribery charges against Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

"From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail", Menendez said in a written statement.

According to the Justice Department, which filed charges against Menendez in 2015, the senator had accepted perks and gifts from the doctor valued at more than $1 million.

In throwing out the bribery counts involving the campaign contributions, U.S. District Judge William Walls said the government failed to show there was an explicit quid pro quo, or "this-for-that" agreement, connecting the donations and Menendez's actions.

Another former USA prosecutor, Lee Vartan, said that the case was weak from the start and that the Justice Department shouldn't have pursued a retrial. Bob Menendez, days after a judge acquitted the senator of several charges.

Menendez was accused of accepting trips, hotel stays and campaign money from Melgen and using the power of his office to help Melgen with visas for his girlfriends and in a billing dispute with the Department of Health and Human Services.

A lawyer for Menendez said the senator was "pleased and grateful" about the decision.

Defense lawyers argued that Menendez and Melgen were longtime friends with no corrupt intent to commit a federal crime. That's a higher standard than the one applied to gifts Melgen gave to Menendez over the years that are the basis for the bribery charges that remain.

"We take no pleasure in seeing justice done at this stage in a case that should never have been brought", Ogrosky said.

Menendez, a senior lawmaker, has spent years fighting the charges.

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