Sen. Menendez heading to trial on bribery charges

  • 22 March 2017
  • NormanL
Sen. Menendez heading to trial on bribery charges

The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who will now face trial on charges of bribery:

Without comment, the nation’s top court rejected a Menendez petition that argued a Philadelphia appeals court misinterpreted the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which bars the executive and judicial branches from questioning a member of Congress about legislative activity.

"It's disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to set a clear, bright line of the separation of powers," Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement. "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,"

Menendez is accused of receiving nearly $1 million in bribes, including flights on a private jet, and lodging in Paris and at a Caribbean resort, and contributions to political committees that boosted his re-election efforts in 2012. In exchange, he is accused of using his office to benefit the personal and private interests of codefendant Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend who is a Florida eye specialist.

Unlike many corruption cases, the allegations are not based on a secret recording or a witness testifying about an agreement to pay a public official for an official action. Rather, they are based on Menendez taking actions around the time Melgen made campaign contributions or provided the senator with other benefits.

An April 2015 indictment handed up in Newark accused Menendez, 63, of Paramus, and Melgen, 62, of North Palm Beach, Fla., of bribery, honest services fraud, violations of the travel act and conspiracy. Menendez is also accused of filing a false statement for not disclosing flights.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty. And  yes, he is a Democrat. But he is also presumed innocent until a court has determined otherwise. It is also worth noting that the honest services fraud statutes took a blow when the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). McDonnell took expensive gifts, loans, and money from a businessman who wanted government approval for a drug his company developed. McDonnell was convicted, and that conviction was upheld on appeal. But the Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that prosecutors had overreached.

Menendez is very likely to use the McDonnell decision in his defense.