FACT CHECK: Did A Jury Find Democrat Bob Menendez ‘Not Guilty’ Of Corruption?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Liberal commentator Bill Press claimed Thursday that Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was found “not guilty” of corruption charges in federal court.

Verdict: False

The trial ended with a hung jury – 10 of the 12 jurors in Menendez’s trial would have voted for acquittal, according to one juror, but federal courts require a unanimous decision by the jury. The judge declared a mistrial.

Fact Check:

Press made the remark on his talk radio program, “The Bill Press Show,” while discussing the midterm elections with Lauren Gambino, a political correspondent for The Guardian.

He brought up two Republicans – Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter – who were re-elected to Congress despite facing federal charges. “What’s up with people? Why would they vote for them?” Press asked.

Gambino speculated that voters have become more willing to look past allegations of misconduct. She used Menendez, who was cast by his Republican challenger as a corrupt politician, as one example. “We saw it cut both ways – I mean, Bob Menendez hung on in New Jersey, despite those attacks,” said Gambino.

Press argued that Menendez’s case was different. “The difference in his case is there was a jury, he was found ‘not guilty’ – cleared there,” he said.

Menendez, who won re-election to the Senate Tuesday, faced corruption charges after a years-long Justice Department investigation into whether he accepted gifts from a longtime friend in exchange for political favors. He was indicted in 2015 and stood trial in federal court on charges in late 2017.

Menendez wasn’t found guilty in the trial, but he was not found innocent either, as Press claimed.

Juries must reach a unanimous verdict in federal cases, and not all of the 12 jury members in Menendez’s case agreed with one another. Ten jurors would have acquitted Menendez, according to one juror, while the other two believed he was guilty.

The judge declared a mistrial after unsuccessful attempts by the jury to reach a consensus. “I find that you are unable to reach a verdict and that further deliberations would be futile, and there is no alternative but to declare a mistrial,” said Judge William Walls. The Justice Department dropped the case in January.

The Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” Menendez months later for not seeking formal committee approval before accepting gifts and for failing to report the gifts after the fact.

“The Bill Press Show” did not respond to a request for comment.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor

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