The juror who was dismissed for her pre-scheduled vacation had made statements saying other jurors had said she couldn't send a note to the court advising the jury was deadlocked, and that she was told "her vote didn't count" because she was going to be released. Bob Menendez, the judge told them to go home and return Tuesday with a new outlook.
Last week, a dismissed juror, Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby, told reporters that she believed Menendez was not guilty and predicted the trial would end with a hung jury.
The friendship theme ran throughout the defense's case in the nine-week trial, and it was condensed in Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell's closing argument when he used the words "friend", "friends" or "friendship" more than 80 times.
The jury sent a note to U.S. District Judge William Walls on Monday afternoon after deliberating for two hours, claiming its members are unable to reach a unanimous decision, the Washington Post reported.
Defense attorneys argued Monday that the excused juror's comments could be a breach of protocol.
Deliberations resume Monday with an alternate taking Arroyo-Maultsby's place.
"You are now a new jury", Walls said.
While her comments pierced the veil of secrecy shrouding all jury deliberations, they are unlikely to lead to a mistrial, Weinstein and other former federal prosecutors said.
But 11 of the 12 jurors deliberating Monday already had spent three full days discussing the case, and it took the panel only three hours Monday to conclude it was deadlocked.
Menendez seemed buoyed by the jurors" note.. "And I want you to come back here tomorrow to continue deliberations", he said.
Jurors have been told repeatedly not to read reports about the case.
Another of Arroyo-Maultsby's comments could also be significant, said former federal prosecutor Michael Weinstein, now the head of white collar defense and investigations for the Cole Schotz law firm. "And clearly there are jurors who believe in my innocence". "It seems particularly hard on these facts so far".
"As I said two and a half years ago when I first faced these charges, I was innocent", he said.
Menendez stands accused of using his office to help co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor and longtime friend, to secure visas for his foreign girlfriends and to intervene in a lucrative port security contract in the Dominican Republic and a multimillion-dollar Medicare dispute.
Menendez, a Democrat and New Jersey's senior senator, is charged with advocating for Melgen's business interests with top USA government officials in exchange for vacations in the Dominican Republic, private jet flights, hotel stays, a vehicle service and about $750,000 in political contributions.
A mistrial also would represent a mixed bag for Menendez.
The men each face about a dozen counts including bribery, fraud and conspiracy. He is also charged with making false statements for not reporting the gifts on Senate disclosure forms.