US decides against corruption retrial of New Jersey senator Robert Menendez

Menendez waits to question Jerome Powell on his nomination to become Federal Reserve chairman in November 2017.
Menendez waits to question Jerome Powell on his nomination to become Federal Reserve chairman in November 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Justice Department on Wednesday (Jan 31) reversed its decision to retry New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, accepting the November mistrial decision in one of the country's highest-profile political corruption cases in decades.

On Jan 19, the department said it intended to retry Menendez, a Democratic senator, and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, on bribery and corruption charges.

Two months earlier, a jury had deadlocked in the case, which involved allegations that the politician's acceptance of gifts of private jet flights, luxury vacations and substantial campaign donations from his wealthy doctor friend Melgen constituted crimes.

But on Wednesday, the government filed a court motion to dismiss its subsequent indictment of the two.

They made reference to a federal judge's decision on Jan 24 to acquit Menendez on several of the 18 charges against him, including some of the most serious bribery counts.

The decision on Wednesday firmly protects the Democrats' hold on one of their seats in the US Senate, where the Republicans have a very slim minority that is under threat in November's mid-term elections.