A federal judge presiding over the case against Sen. Bob Menendez has denied the defense’s motion to dismiss the bribery charges against the New Jersey Democrat. A jury will decide whether Menendez and his wealthy benefactor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, are guilty of the 18 bribery and corruption charges they face together.
Prosecutors say Menendez lobbied top government officials and curried favors for his friend and longtime donor in exchange for campaign donations and favors. The defense requested that U.S. District Court Judge William Walls throw out the bribery charges levied against the defendants, saying a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that overturned former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s bribery conviction would apply to their clients.
“This court concludes that a rational jury could determine that the defendants entered into a quid pro quo agreement,” Walls said.
Last week, prosecutors rested their case against Menendez and Melgen. After the judge’s decision to continue the trial against the senator, the defense called its first witness: Menendez’s 32-year-old son, who testified that his father and wealthy eye doctor Melgen, who was convicted of Medicare fraud earlier this year, were close friends and that the private plane rides and luxury vacations were not part of a bribe, according to Politico.
If convicted, 84 percent of Menendez’s constituents want him to step down from office, yet top Democrats have stayed silent on the case, as have many members of the media. As of last Wednesday, broadcast TV networks spent a grand total of 2 minutes and 10 seconds of their morning and evening news coverage on the case. Republican Gov. Chris Christie could choose a Republican senator to replace Menendez, which would affect the politics of the U.S. Senate.