NEWARK, N.J. — Jurors reached no verdict after another full day spent considering the corruption charges against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his co-defendant Tuesday, one day after they informed the judge overseeing the case they were deadlocked on all 18 counts.
Should the jury not be able to reach a unanimous verdict in the days ahead, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls could be compelled to declare a mistrial.
When jurors returned to the courtroom Tuesday morning after having been sent home early Monday afternoon, Walls read them instructions in which he encouraged them to keep trying to reach a consensus.
“Do not hesitate to re-examine your own views, and change your opinion, if convinced it is erroneous,” he said. “But do not surrender your honest conviction as to the weight or effect of evidence solely because of the opinion of your fellow jurors, or for the mere purpose of reaching a verdict.”
Walls also diverged from those instructions, called a model charge, to remind jurors that “this is not reality TV” and to ask them somewhat cryptically to consider one question above all others: “Why?”
Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell objected to Walls’ additions to the model charge, arguing that they undermined the “balance” such instructions strike as honed through hundreds of trials.
“Your great desire to quarrel with me has no merit,” Walls responded.
Menendez, the senior Democratic senator from New Jersey, and his co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, stand accused of striking a corrupt bargain to swap official favors for gifts and political contributions.
Both men deny the charges. Menendez has said he will be “vindicated” at trial and run for re-election next year.
In total, Menendez faces six counts of bribery, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy, one count of interstate travel to carry out bribery and one count of making false statements on his congressional financial disclosures to conceal the crimes. Melgen faces the same charges except the false statements accusation.
The fraud charges carry the most serious penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Deliberations in the 11-week trial began Nov. 6 and continued for more than 15 hours last week before a juror was excused to take a long-planned vacation to the Bahamas.
Walls filled the vacancy on the 12-person panel with an alternate and instructed the jury Monday to begin deliberations “from scratch.”
About three hours later, jurors sent a note to the judge informing him they were deadlocked and asking for guidance on how to proceed.
Jurors deliberated for about five more hours Tuesday without sending a single question or note to the court.
—The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)
Pulse nightclub shooter used online dating sites to cheat on wife, her attorneys say
ORLANDO, Fla. — Attorneys for the wife of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen wrote in a motion filed this week that he was using online dating websites such as Plenty of Fish to cheat on her.
Noor Salman’s attorneys said in the motion that Mateen used a mutual friend as a cover story so he could go out with other women.
Salman told the FBI her husband told her the night before the attack he was going out with this friend.
Salman’s attorneys argue this is relevant because Mateen was actively trying to hide what he was doing from his wife. Salman claims she knew nothing of the attack.
The friend, identified only as Nemo, told FBI investigators that Mateen asked him to lie for him if his wife ever called.
“And this is a statement he made to me, because he had a bad habit of — he was married, he was married, but he went behind his wife’s back and did a lot of stuff on the side on whatever website,” Nemo told FBI agents, according to the filing. “Plenty of Fish or whatever it was. Arablounge. He even mentioned Craigslist to me. Hooking up with women. Hooking up with older women.”
According to Salman’s lawyers, the FBI interviewed 10 women he met through online dating sites, including a sustained relationship he had with a woman between June 2015 and March 2016.
Her lawyers also asked that a judge throw out 911 calls and video from inside the club because it would be prejudicial toward her.
Prosecutors had not filed a response as of Monday night.
Salman is charged with aiding her husband in the attack that left 49 people dead at the night club on June 12, 2016.
Australians overwhelmingly back same-sex marriage
SYDNEY — The Australian government on Wednesday promised to have same-sex marriage legislation approved by Christmas after Australians voted overwhelmingly in favor of the move in a postal survey.
More than 7 million voters, or 61.6 percent, had voted “yes” to changing legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
“Australians have come together like never before in support of gays and lesbians and deliver an unequivocal message to the parliament to do their job and make same-sex marriage legal,” said Alex Greenwich, a state parliamentarian and spokesman for the marriage equality campaign.
Almost 80 percent of 16 million eligible voters took part in the voluntary and non-binding survey, which the bureau said showed “how important” the issue was to Australians; 7.8 million people voted “yes” and 4.9 million voted “no.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the vote was “unequivocal” and that he wanted same-sex marriage legislation to be approved by Christmas.
“They voted yes for fairness, for commitment, yes for love,” Turnbull said in a nationally televised broadcast after the results were announced.
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