Since the start of the federal bribery and corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby told U.S. District Judge William H. that she had a long planned vacation scheduled
As the Menendez jury wrapped us its third day of deliberations, Walls dismissed the juror from the case on Thursday, November 9, 2017, so she could take that vacation.
Arroyo-Maultsby was replaced by an alternate, and jurors will start over Monday, resuming deliberations with the new juror.
Alternates sit with the rest of the jury during the trial, hearing all evidence and testimony, but they do not participate in deliberations unless made part of the panel as a replacement.
In a stunning turn of events, the juror who was excused from the trial on Thursday told reporters that most of the jurors favor acquittal.
Arroyo-Maultsby told journalists outside of the federal courthouse in Newark, that she thinks the senator should be found not guilty and that she would have cast a vote to acquit the politician on all counts.
“He’s not guilty on all counts,” said Arroyo-Maultsby, a 61-year-old Hillside resident. “I don’t think he did anything wrong.”
“What I saw in the courtroom was he was not guilty on all counts and so was Dr. Melgen,” saidArroyo-Maultsby. “They are friends. If I was rich and if I had a lot of money and I want to take my friend somewhere, why can’t I?”
It’s highly unusual to allow to juror to speak publicly about a jury’s deliberations before a verdict is rendered, and it could cause a mistrial.
The vacationing juror not only said she would vote not guilty “on all counts,” but also that many of the remaining jurors agreed with her at this point.
Arroyo-Maultsby described the panel as divided — suggesting the case might end with a hung-jury.
She said she feared that her departure could leave the jury without strong advocate for an acquittal, which might induce the remaining jurors to compromise and find Menendez and Melgen guilty on some or all of the charges.
The judge, defense lawyers and prosecutors all had no idea that the juror spoke so freely as she left the courthouse.
It’s unclear what effect Arroyo-Maultsby’s comments could have on deliberations.
Jurors are typically instructed by the judge not to read anything about the case or discuss it during the trial, but their actions outside the courtroom are not monitored.
Walls did not instruct her to keep quiet when he dismissed her on Thursday.
Menendez is accused of using his office to help his co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, essentially serving as a politician on retainer.
In particular, the senator helped Melgen obtain visas for foreign girlfriends, lobbied to get him a lucrative port security contract in the Dominican Republic and intervened in a multimillion-dollar Medicare billing dispute.
The jury is considering a total of 18 counts — both men are charged with conspiracy, violating the Travel Act, three counts of honest services fraud and six counts of bribery.
Menendez also is charged with making false statements by failing to report Melgen’s gifts from his Senate disclosure forms.
Defense lawyers say those gifts resulted from the men’s longtime friendship and that Menendez’s meetings with government officials were focused on broader policy issues, not specifically on Melgen’s problems.
“They shouldn’t know any disclosures by the parting juror, but if they do become aware of it, that potentially taints the deliberations,” said Mala Ahuja Harker, a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey.
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