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U.S. to Drop Graft Charges Against Sen. Bob Menendez

U.S. to Drop Graft Charges Against Sen. Bob Menendez

Walls' decision came days after the Justice Department said earlier this month that it meant to retry Menendez after Walls declared a mistrial in the corruption case in November.

"From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail", Menendez said in a statement.

Menendez, a senior lawmaker, has spent years fighting the charges.

The retreat on the Menendez case marks a setback for public integrity prosecutors at the Justice Department, as legal experts have questioned whether their authority to pursue such cases will be more limited in the wake of the Menendez mistrial and an earlier Supreme Court ruling.

Menendez and Melgen pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Justice Department Wednesday filed to dismiss its remaining charges against Sen.

An outraged Menendez attacked prosecutors immediately after his November 16 mistrial. "I thank God for hearing my prayers and for giving me strength during this hard time", the senator said. Walls left in place other bribery and fraud charges but bowed out of the case.

Menendez, a Democrat who is expected to seek reelection this year, was accused of accepting gifts from a wealthy benefactor, ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, in exchange for official favors.

Now, Menendez will have some time to fix his standing among voters, while Republicans decide whether it's worth the trouble to find a viable challenger and launch an expensive effort to oust him in a bad year and a bad state for them.

In a statement, Melgen's attorney Kirk Ogrosky said his client "is now and has always been innocent". The charges against Melgen were also dropped. "We take no pleasure in seeing justice done at this stage in a case that should never have been brought. So it was always to going to be hard for prosecutors".

Menendez, 64, was charged with trading his political influence for gifts and campaign donations from Melgen, 63.

In November when the trial ended in a mistrial, Menendez criticized the Justice Department.

The mistrial occurred after the jury could not reach a unanimous decision, saying they were unwilling to move away from their "strong convictions".

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