Justices won’t hear Menendez appeal in corruption case
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s appeal of his corruption indictment, setting the stage for a federal trial in the fall.
The justices let stand a lower court ruling that refused to dismiss charges including conspiracy, bribery and fraud against the Democratic lawmaker.
Menendez was indicted in 2015 after prosecutors said he took official action on behalf of a longtime friend who had given him gifts and campaign donations including flights aboard a luxury jet and a Paris vacation.
The friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, currently is on trial in Florida on multiple counts of Medicare fraud that are separate from the counts he faces in the Menendez indictment.
The indictment alleges Menendez used his official influence to set up meetings with government officials aimed at helping Melgen in a Medicare dispute and with a business interest involving port security in the Dominican Republic.
Menendez has contended he was seeking to influence future policy instead of advocating on behalf of his friend, and that the government is attempting to use the timing of campaign donations to create a quid pro quo between him and Melgen that he claims never existed.
A federal judge in New Jersey and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected Menendez’s argument that the meetings were part of his normal legislative duties and were protected under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause shielding lawmakers from prosecution for those acts.