‘Friendship’ defense, lack of ‘smoking gun’ aided Menendez

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Comments by jurors in the bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez indicate they felt the government’s case wasn’t strong enough to convict the New Jersey Democrat and a wealthy friend.

Members of the panel said most of the group was for acquittal but that a few holdouts forced a hung jury.

The judge declared a mistrial on Thursday, giving Menendez a reprieve from the criminal charges for now.

He’s up for re-election next year, and it isn’t clear yet if the government wants to pursue a retrial.

Menendez and his longtime friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen (MEHL’-genn) were charged with conspiracy, bribery and fraud. Menendez also was charged with making false statements for not reporting gifts from Melgen on Senate disclosure forms.