Prosecutors detail evidence in Sen. Bob Menendez corruption trial

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Aug. 31, 2017 at 12:20 PM
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Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors have detailed their strategy in Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez's corruption trial -- in which they will show emails, flight manifests and hotel bills as evidence.

The prosecutors filed a new brief in a federal court over the New Jersey lawmaker's trial late Wednesday. Evidence against Menendez, they say, will include credit card statements and Federal Election Commission filings

Menendez's defense team has criticized the court document, saying it could taint the jury pool for the trial that will begin next week.

Menendez was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in April 2015 on 14 felony counts of illegally accepting gifts and political contributions from Florida eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen -- a longtime friend and campaign donor -- who's 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.

Prosecutors rejected the claim by Menendez's lawyers that the case against him is politically motivated.

"This case is about serious questions of fact and law related to the corruption of one of the highest elected offices in the United States government," the brief reads. "It is not about anonymous tips, Cuba, Iran, party politics or the political consequences of a conviction. The question of whether the defendants engaged in a corrupt scheme cannot be answered by the defendants' conspiracy theories. Rather, it only can be answered through a focused examination of the defendants' and their agents' own contemporaneous statements, black-and-white financial, government and business records, and live, non-anonymous witness testimony."

Prosecutors will call to the stand witnesses that include Menendez staffers, State Department officials and pilots who allegedly flew Menendez on vacations sponsored by Melgen.

Menendez is the first U.S. senator to face federal bribery charges since 1980, when Harrison A. Williams Jr., was indicted as part of the federal Abscam corruption investigation.

Amy R. Connolly and Allen Cone contributed to this report.

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