Judge declines to dismiss corruption charges against Menendez

By Allen Cone  |  Oct. 16, 2017 at 1:42 PM
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Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A federal judge Monday refused to throw out any of the 18 charges -- including bribery -- in the corruption case against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

The New Jersey Democrat's defense team asked U.S. District Court Judge William Walls to toss the charges after the prosecution rested its case last week.

Wall said the evidence appeared to meet the legal test for proving bribery, and that it's the jury's responsibility to make a judgment.

"The jury will decide what happened," Walls said. "That's why we're going to the jury."

Defense lawyers will now begin presenting their case.

Menendez is accused of accepting illegal gifts and more than $700,000 in poltical contributions from a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen.

In return, prosecutors said Menendez attempted to help Melgen quash a 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.

Defense lawyers said Menendez never agreed to perform any specific act when he received the favors from Melgen. They said it did not meet the higher legal standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 decision that threw out bribery charges against former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell.

Prosecutors said 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.

Walls agreed with the government's position, saying "the court concludes that a rational jury could determine that the defendants entered into a quid pro quo agreement."

"Payment may be made with intent to retain official services on an as-needed bases, so whenever the opportunity presents itself the official will take official action on behalf of the payer's benefit," he said.

Walls also refused to toss out another charge that Menendez intentionally didn't disclose his gifts.

In March, the Supreme Court refused to throw out bribery and corruption charges against Menendez.

Menendez, up for re-election in 2018, was indicted in April 2015. He is the first U.S. senator to face federal bribery charges since 1980.

In April, a federal jury in Palm Beach County, Fla., convicted Melgen of 67 charges in a massive scheme that robbed Medicare out of as much as $105 million.

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