Corruption case against U.S. Senator
Menendez may fall apart
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[October 16, 2017]
By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The heart of the
bribery case against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez could collapse mid-trial
on Monday, after the judge overseeing the trial suggested he might throw
out the most serious charges in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision
limiting the definition of corruption.
Judge William Walls, of federal court in Newark, New Jersey, is expected
on Monday to rule on the defense's motion to dismiss, five days after
U.S. prosecutors rested their case against Menendez, a New Jersey
Walls expressed serious doubts at that time that the evidence was
sufficient, citing last year's Supreme Court decision vacating the
corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
Prosecutors have accused Menendez, 63, of taking bribes from Florida
ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen in exchange for using his office to help
the doctor in a variety of ways. Both men deny wrongdoing and say Melgen
was acting out of friendship.
Following several hours of arguments on Wednesday, Walls seemed prepared
to accept the defense's contention that McDonnell invalidated a bribery
theory known as "stream of benefits," in which someone offers bribes
essentially to keep a politician on retainer, rather than paying for
"Does stream of benefits still live?" Walls asked prosecutors. "If
stream of benefits still lives, then you've got a chance."
The McDonnell decision has already caused several corruption convictions
to be overturned, including those of former top New York state lawmakers
Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.
Even if he dismisses the top charges, Walls has said the trial will
continue on at least one charge: that Menendez made false statements by
failing to disclose the gifts.
[to top of second column]
Senator Bob Menendez speaks to journalists after arriving to face
trial for federal corruption charges as his daughter Alicia Menendez
(L) looks on outside United States District Court for the District
of New Jersey in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., September 6, 2017.
REUTERS/Joe Penney / File Photo
During the trial's first six weeks, prosecutors presented evidence
that Menendez pressured federal officials to secure visas for
Melgen's girlfriends, resolve a port dispute involving one of
Melgen's businesses and change a Medicare reimbursement policy after
the agency determined Melgen had overbilled it by millions of
In exchange, Melgen showered Menendez with private flights, luxury
vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign backing,
The defense argued that the prosecution failed to show a link
between the gifts and the acts, which took place over a period of
The case has been closely watched in Washington, where Republicans
hold a 52-48 edge in the Senate. If Menendez is convicted and either
resigns or is expelled before Republican New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie's term expires in January, then Christie would name his
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)
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