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Justice Department Won't Retry Sen. Menendez After Corruption Case Mistrial

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., smiles as he leaves federal court in November.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., smiles as he leaves federal court in November.

Federal prosecutors won't retry Sen. Robert Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, in a surprise decision Wednesday that brings an end to the long-running case against the New Jersey Democrat.

As recently as earlier this month, the Justice Department had vowed to retry Menendez on charges of bribery and fraud after its first attempt ended in a mistrial in November. But a court decision last week, in which several counts against Menendez were thrown out, persuaded prosecutors to reverse course. Prosecutors referenced that order in the motion they filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Menendez and Melgen, a Florida doctor, had been accused of engaging in a quid pro quo relationship, in which Menendez allegedly gave government favors in exchange for gifts from Melgen — including trips on Melgen's private jet. Both defendants have denied any wrongdoing, arguing the gifts were merely evidence of their close friendship.

The move Wednesday now lifts a cloud of legal suspicion that has long hung above Menendez, a high-ranking Democratic senator who is up for re-election in the fall.

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.