Excused Menendez juror: He's not guilty

Menendez Trial
Sen. Bob Menendez arrives at the federal courthouse in Newark in this September file photo. The jury weighing his corruption case will continue its deliberations Wednesday.

NEWARK, N.J. — A juror who was excused Thursday after three days of deliberations in U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial said she and most of the other jurors believe he is not guilty of a crime.

“What I saw in the courtroom was that [Menendez] was not guilty on all counts,” Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby of Hillside told reporters outside the courthouse. She said she believed the senator’s co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, was also not guilty.

U.S. District Judge William H. Walls dismissed the juror so she could go on a long-planned vacation, a promise he made to her before the trial began on Sept. 6. The judge had not expected the trial to last so long.

Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is accused of accepting free trips on private jets, vacations, and political donations in exchange for performing official acts to advance Melgen’s business and personal interests.

The two men say prosecutors are trying to criminalize a longtime friendship.

“They are friends,” Arroyo-Maultsby said. “If I was rich, and I had a lot of money, and if I want to take my friend somewhere, why can’t I?”

She said most of the remaining jurors agreed with her assessment, but that one could not be persuaded during deliberations. “It got very emotional today,” she told reporters.

The Bergen Record posted a video of her remarks on its website.

During jury selection in August, Arroyo-Maultsby told Walls that her youngest son had twice been incarcerated, most recently during a 10-year stint in state prison for car theft. She also reported she was dyslexic and sometimes struggled with reading the English language.

Asked whether her son’s experience would affect her ability to impartially weigh Menendez’s case, she replied without hesitation. “Absolutely not,” she said.

An alternate will now take her place on the jury. That reconstituted panel is to start deliberations from scratch on Monday.

Menendez and Melgen are charged with bribery, honest services fraud, and related corruption counts.