WASHINGTON , July 21 (UPI) -- Sen. Bob Menendez told a federal judge Monday corruption charges against him should be thrown out because federal prosecutors violated his constitutional rights by unfairly treating campaign donations as crimes.
In a 400-plus page legal argument, Menendez, D-N.J., asked a judge to set aside a corruption indictment because prosecutors misled a grand jury and infringed on his constitutional speech and debate privileges, which gives lawmakers and staff protections from legal actions over legitimate legislative activities. He said the Department of Justice will "stop at nothing" to convict him and longtime friend and donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
Prosecutors said Menendez, 61, intervened on Melgen's behalf in a Medicare dispute with the Department of Health and Human Services. Menendez is facing a 14-count indictment that alleges he accepted gifts and donations of about $1 million from Melgen, a Florida eye doctor..
The joint filing by the two men is among the first indication of the aggressive legal defense they plan to launch. The government's response to the motions are due by Aug. 24 and a hearing on the motions is set for Sept. 17. A trial date is set for October.
Menendez, considered one of the nation's most influential senators, is back by a legal defense fund that has raised $1.6 million so far.
"Today's report reaffirms the broad, deep and unwavering support the senator has in New Jersey and across the country from those who know him, who share his longstanding beliefs on critical issues, and who want him to continue to fight for those beliefs and on their behalf," Menendez adviser Mike Soliman said.
Menendez is the first senator to face federal bribery charges since 1980, when Harrison A. Williams Jr., was indicted as part of the federal Abscam corruption investigation.