US prosecutors won't retry Menendez on corruption charges


NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Federal prosecutors decided today not to retry Sen. Bob Menendez on corruption charges that ended in a hung jury last fall, lifting the legal cloud hanging over the New Jersey Democrat as he gears up for re-election this year to the closely divided Senate.

The move brings to an end a more than five-year investigation that began with never-substantiated allegations about consorting with prostitutes and eventually resulted in a bribery indictment.

Menendez, 64, was charged with trading his political influence for gifts and campaign contributions from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, 63. Their 11-week trial ended in November with the jury deadlocked.

"From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail," Menendez said in a statement. "I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to re-evaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion."

Prosecutors had said Jan. 19 they would pursue a retrial, but they abandoned the case after the judge last week threw out the bribery charges related to the campaign donations. Eleven charges remained, including bribery, fraud and conspiracy.

The Justice Department didn't immediately comment on the reasons for the change in course but mentioned the judge's ruling in its two-sentence memo today.

Though the case weakened Menendez's poll numbers, he retained the full support of the major Democratic players in New Jersey, including Gov. Phil Murphy.

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