March 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to throw out bribery and corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, clearing the way for a federal trial this fall for the Democrat.
The eight justices denied a request to hear the appeal, making no further comment.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled on July 29 against Menendez, saying the Justice Department had not violated the senator's constitutional privilege under the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says members of Congress can't be held to account "for any speech or debate in either house."
Menendez was indicted by the Justice Department in April 2015 on 14 felony counts of illegally accepting gifts and political contributions from West Palm Beach, Fla., eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend and campaign donor who is facing 76 counts of Medicare fraud for stealing up to $190 million from the program.
Prosecutors accuse Menendez of attempting to help Melgen quash the Medicare case and resolve a $500 million port security contract dispute with the Dominican Republic as well as obtaining visas for three of Melgen's girlfriends.
Abbe Lowell, Menendez's lead defense attorney, called the charges "wild allegations" in a statement, saying Menendez "remains confident that he will be vindicated when all the facts are heard at trial."
"It's disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to set a clear, bright line of the separation of powers to ensure that Congress remains an independent and co-equal branch of government, free of interference and retribution from the executive as the Framers intended," Abbe Lowell, Menendez's lead defense attorney," Lowell said. "While the senator always understood it is rare that the Supreme Court hears any case before trial, given the gravity of the Constitutional issues raised, he believed it was important to try."
Last year, U.S. District Judge William Walls said he would set a trial date trial for Menendez in Newark, N.J., after the outcome of the senator's appeal.
Melgen's trial for Medicare fraud is now underway in Palm Beach County, Fla. Melgen will face corruption charges in New Jersey related to the Menendez case.