Judge Declines to Dismiss Menendez Charges


Menendez is facing 12 federal charges, including bribery, conspiracy and fraud.

On Monday, US District Judge William Walls rejected the defense lawyers' motion to drop the charges.

Menendez stands accused of accepting all-expense-paid trips and private jet flights from Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Palm Beach eye doctor, in exchange for official favors, including help with the doctor's $8.9M Medicare bill and help obtaining visas for the ophthalmologist's young girlfriends. Bob Menendez's corruption trial declined on Monday to dismiss any charges, finding that the entire case against the senator could proceed to a jury even after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the scope of bribery crimes in the 2016 case McDonnell v. Judge Walls dismissed Menendez motion to toss case, case will continue to defense today. In recent months, the McDonnell ruling led judges to throw out bribery convictions of at least three other former public officials, including a former Louisiana congressman.

"The jury will decide whose version of what happened and what didn't happen is more likely than not", Walls said, according to Politico.

Defense lawyers will now begin presenting their case.

In return, the government said, Menendez helped get visas for Melgen's girlfriends, aided a Melgen-owned company with a contract worth millions for port security in the Dominican Republic, and leaned on federal regulators after Melgen was accused of overbilling Medicare for almost $9 million.

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"The objective of the conspiracy was for the defendants to use Menendez's official position as a United States senator to benefit and enrich themselves through bribery", the indictment said. The government's theory of the case "captures the most egregious forms of bribery where, like here, corruption is so pervasive that it involves more than a single gift or an isolated official act and often lasts for years", they said.

"Menendez withheld information from his senate staff to hide the extent of his official action on Melgen", prosecutors also alleged.

Last week, the judge surprised some when he set aside what was expected to be the trial's central issue: whether Menendez's meetings and other dealings with government officials could be considered "official acts" under the McDonnell ruling's new definition.

The indictment also claimed Menendez solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars of contributions from Melgen to entities that benefited the senator's election campaign and a separate legal defense fund.

The two men deny the allegations and say the gifts were a result of their longtime friendship.

The government contended that McDonnell's holding merely curbed the definition of "official act" to a formal exercise of government power that is specific and focused. He now sits on the Senate foreign relations, banking, and finance committees.