On Monday morning a federal judge dismissed a request to declare the corruption case against Sen. Bob Menendez and his wealthy benefactor a mistrial. The Democratic senator is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, trips aboard a private plane, and luxury vacations at an exclusive resort from his co-defendant, Salamon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor.
In exchange, prosecutors say Menendez lobbied State Department officials to get visas for his married friend’s alleged mistresses and even intervened in a federal fraud investigation on his behalf. Melgen was convicted of Medicare fraud earlier this year for overbilling the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and defrauding taxpayers of nearly $9 million.
Last week, defense attorneys asked the judge presiding over the felony corruption and bribery trial to declare a mistrial, after he barred two witnesses from testifying on behalf of the defense. But U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls refused.
“The defense wants to spend morning, noon and night discussing the contracts in each case, the issue of multiple dosages,” Walls said, according to Politico. “It’s a question for this court to determine when enough is enough.”
Menendez’s co-defendant used vials of eye drops with patients multiple times but billed CMS as if he were using them only once, as intended. The defense had requested that a CMS official testify to answer questions about the medication as well as an attorney who represented Menendez in 2012 after news broke that the senator had flown aboard Melgen’s private plane for free.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could chose a Republican senator to replace Menendez if his office were to be vacated, which would affect the narrowly divided Senate. If he’s found guilty, Menendez’s attorneys will likely appeal the conviction — a move that could prolong the trial until after the gubernatorial election. Democratic candidate Phil Murphy is projected to win by a wide margin.
If convicted, 84 percent of Menendez’s constituents want him to resign from office, but Democrats refuse to say whether their colleague should step down. Earlier this month, The Federalist contacted every Democratic senator to ask if Menendez should quit if he’s found guilty and not a single one said yes.