New Jersey Sen. Menendez’s bribery trial ends in a hung jury
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The federal bribery trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended Thursday with the jury hopelessly deadlocked on all charges, a partial victory for him that could nevertheless leave the case hanging over his head as he gears up for re-election to a sharply divided Senate.
U.S. District Judge William Walls declared a mistrial after more than six full days of deliberations failed to produce a verdict on any of the 18 counts against the New Jersey politician or his co-defendant, a wealthy Florida eye doctor accused of buying Menendez’s influence by plying him with luxury vacations and campaign contributions.
Prosecutors would not say whether they plan to retry Menendez. But on the political front, forces were already mobilizing against him, with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately calling for an ethics investigation of him. The ethics committee said Thursday it would resume an inquiry into Menendez that started in 2012 and was deferred a year later because of the criminal investigation.
Outside the courthouse, a choked-up Menendez fought back tears as he blasted federal authorities for bringing the case and thanked the jurors in the 2 1/2-month trial “who saw through the government’s false claims and used their Jersey common sense to reject it.”
“Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot stand, or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County could grow up to be a United States senator and be honest,” said the 63-year-old son of Cuban immigrants who is up for re-election next year.
Jury member Edward Norris said 10 jurors wanted to acquit Menendez on all charges, while two held out for conviction.
Norris said that after the prosecution rested, “in my gut I was like, ‘That’s it? That’s all they had?'”
Menendez was accused of selling his political influence to Dr. Salomon Melgen for vacations in the Caribbean and Paris, flights on Melgen’s jet and hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to campaign organizations that supported the senator directly or indirectly.
Keystone pipeline leaks 210K gallons of oil in South Dakota
AMHERST, S.D. (AP) — TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil onto agricultural land in northeastern South Dakota, the company and state regulators said Thursday, but state officials don’t believe the leak polluted any surface water bodies or drinking water systems.
Crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning and activated emergency response procedures after a drop in pressure was detected resulting from the leak south of a pump station in Marshall County, TransCanada said in a statement. The cause was being investigated.
Discovery of the leak comes just days before Nebraska regulators are scheduled to announce their decision Monday whether to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, an expansion that would boost the amount of oil TransCanada is now shipping through the existing line, which is known simply as Keystone. The expansion has faced fierce opposition from environmental groups, American Indian tribes and some landowners.
Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist manager at the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the state has sent a staff member to the site of the leak in a rural area near the border with North Dakota about 250 miles west of Minneapolis.
“Ultimately, the cleanup responsibility lies with TransCanada, and they’ll have to clean it up in compliance with our state regulations,” Walsh said.
TransCanada said in its statement that it expected the pipeline to remain shut down as the company responds to the leak.