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DOJ will take second shot at Menendez

By David Wildstein

The story of the day is that the Department of Justice wants to re-try U.S. Senator Bob Menendez on corruption charges.  POLITICO New Jersey was the first to report it.

The last trial, which lasted ten weeks, ended in mid-November with a hung jury  Deadlocked gives the impression that the jury was a swing district – Menendez won 85% of the vote in the jury room when eleven of thirteen jurors (including one who was excused during deliberation) voted to find him not guilty.

Still, the decision of federal prosecutors in Washington to re-try the case in an election year where control of the United States Senate is at stake will surely be the topic of worthy debate. Democratic State Chairman John Currie told Matt Friedman that he wants to speak to Menendez before speaking with the county chairs. New Jersey has tremendous elasticity in election law, and that filing deadlines are effectively meaningless.

The Senator’s legal team still has a number of options, but until a new federal judge is assigned — William Walls said last year that he would not preside over this case again — that part of it is likely on hold.  There is no word on when a new trial will happen — other than the presumption that the case will jump ahead of others on the docket.

Menendez rapidly dispelled speculation of a primary challenge after the trial ended, rolling out endorsements from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross, and key Democratic county chairmen.  Those who had openly toyed with the idea of running – former Sen. Bob Torricelli, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Bergen County Freeholder Tracy Zur – backed down quickly.

Now all eyes will be on Murphy, who is four days into his term as Governor.  Local party leaders will watch closely to see what Murphy says — and when he says it.

In a statement released this afternoon, Menendez’s office said they expected the Senator to be vindicated.

“We regret that the DOJ, after spending millions and millions of taxpayer dollars and failing to prove a single allegation in a court of law, has decided to double down on an unjust prosecution,” said a statement from Menendez’s office.  “Evidently, they did not hear the overwhelming voices of the New Jerseyans who served on the jury this fall.  Senator Menendez fully intends to be vindicated — again.”

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