A judge Tuesday afternoon declared a mistrial in a high-profile foreign bribery prosecution in Washington, dealing another setback for the Justice Department as the jurors in the case overwhelmingly supported not guilty verdicts for several defendants.
The jurors deliberated for more than a week before telling the judge, Richard Leon of Washington federal district court, that the panel was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
The charges stem from a two-year sting rooted in the proposed sale of $15 million in military products to the African nation of Gabon. The sale was a ruse. FBI agents set up a fake deal using informants and undercover agents.
The panel voted 9 to 3 and 10 to 2--favoring not guilty--on several charges for three defendants who were indicted substantive provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Leon earlier dismissed an overarching conspiracy charge against the defendants.
The same panel, which heard evidence for three months, acquitted two defendants yesterday. Three jurors who left the courtroom after the mistrial declined to speak with reporters.
Prosecutors also declined to comment after Leon announced the mistrial. For the government, the jury's inability to reach a unanimous verdict was surely a disappointment.
The mistrial was the second in recent months. Last summer, Leon declared a mistrial for another set of defendants who were charged in the scheme.
In all, 22 executives and employees in the arms and equipment industry were charged in the novel prosecution, which employed undercover techniques more commonly seen in drug and racketeering cases.
Another set of defendants is scheduled for trial later this month.