A federal judge Wednesday granted a request to acquit Sen.
Sen. Bob Menendez, center, arrives with his children, Alicia Menendez and Robert Menendez Jr., to court in Newark, N.J., on September 6, 2017.
Menendez and his co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, had faced 18 counts of alleged corruption. That's a higher standard than the one applied to gifts Melgen gave to Menendez over the years that are the basis for the bribery charges that remain.
After an 11-week trial, Walls declared a in November after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the counts.
Menendez faces nine counts in his retrial and Melgen faces eight.
Prosecutors have accused Menendez of accepting bribes from Melgen and, in exchange, lobbying Medicare officials to alter their billing practices after the agency concluded Melgen had overbilled it.
Last week, federal prosecutors said they plan to retry Menendez following his mistrial.
Prosecutors allege that from 2006 through early 2013 Menendez received rides on Melgen's private jet, rooms at luxury hotels, a stay at Melgen's posh villa in the Dominican Republic, and almost $750,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for political favors. The judge said there wasn't enough evidence to prove that $660,000 in contributions from Melgen to Menendez's campaign a year ago were part of a bribe.
The ruling could reshape much of the government's case.
Walls also noted Menendez's advocacy on behalf of Melgen ended with the 2012 meeting with Sebelius. No date for the retrial has been set.
"With the court's decision, this case is now exclusively about the purest of personal hospitality allegations-stays [at] his friend, Dr. Melgen's family home and reimbursed trips on a plane that Dr. Melgen was flying anyway", said Lowell. "The decision ... to retry the case makes even less sense than it did last week and we hope it would be reconsidered".
A Justice Department spokeswoman said prosecutors were reviewing the court order and considering their next steps.
"A jury rejected the government's facts and theory of bribery, and now the trial judge has rejected a critical legal theory on which the case was brought", Lowell said.
"There is no there there", he wrote, quoting the writer Gertrude Stein.
Kirk Ogrosky, an attorney for Melgen, said, "The court's acquittal on all counts which involve monetary contributions is long overdue".
What will the Justice Department do?
Menendez is the first sitting US senator to face a federal bribery trial in more than three decades, according to The New York Times. Walls ruled on that motion Wednesday.
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