The judge presiding over Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial told the Democratic lawmaker’s attorney to “shut up for a minute” on Wednesday. During the first day of the trial, U.S. District Court Judge William Walls told Menendez’s attorney, Raymond Brown, to pipe down after Brown complained about the judge’s decision to quash a request to reschedule the trial around the senator’s vote schedule.
“The Court suspects that the trial strategy behind this motion, if granted, would be to impress the jurors with the public importance of the defendant Senator and his duties,” Wall wrote last week when he slapped the motion down. “No other plausible reason comes to mind.”
Brown complained that the judge’s words were “discriminatory” against Menendez, who faces 14 corruption charges including several bribery and fraud charges, after he allegedly took bribes from a wealthy eye doctor who was convicted earlier this year for his role in the scheme.
“I think the court has disparaged the defense,” Brown said to the judge.
The two reportedly began to talk over one another for several minutes, then Wall told Brown to shut his trap.
“Shut up for a moment if you don’t mind,” Walls said. “I said what I said” to “underscore what I considered the lack of merits in this motion.”
“Now I feel quasi-insulted. You tell me where I have ever speculated to affect the interest of a defendant before a jury,” Walls said. “I want you to tell me where I have done something that reasonable jurors and lawyers would consider speculative and proactive.”
Republican Gov. Chris Christie could pick a Republican to replace Menendez if he vacates his office, a move that would shift the political makeup of the U.S. Senate. Menendez, who says he is innocent and does not plan to step down, faces 15 years for each of the eight counts of felony bribery charges.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) reportedly skipped several Senate committee hearings to attend the first day of the trial. He sat in the front row right behind his Democratic colleague.