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Bob Menendez to face trial on bribery and corruption charges

20 March 2017

Despite the charges against him, Menendez has continued in his role as USA senator. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 20, 2017, declined to hear Menendez's appeal of his corruption indictment, setting the stage for a federal trial in the fall.

Attorneys for Menendez, who is up for re-election in 2018, have argued unsuccessfully that under the "Speech or Debate Clause", the New Jersey Democrat is immune from prosecution. The court rejected the appeal as part of a list of orders released Monday, making no further comment.

The April 2015 indictment alleges that Menendez accepted almost $1 million in gifts from his friend Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen in exchange for political favors.

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"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", Lowell said.

Abbe Lowell, Menendez's lead defense attorney, called the charges "wild allegations" in a statement, saying Menendez "remains confident that he will be vindicated when all the facts are heard at trial". A federal appeals court, ruling in July 2016, said the speech-or-debate clause didn't shield Menendez because he was lobbying on behalf of a particular person, rather than trying to influence a broader government policy. The justices let stand a lower court ruling that refused to dismiss charges including conspiracy, bribery and fraud against the Democratic lawmaker.

The indictment alleges that Menendez intervened in a dispute between Medicare and Melgen at Melgen's request, and also with a contract in the Dominican Republic involving one of Melgen's companies.

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Melgen's trial for Medicare fraud is now underway in Palm Beach County. Menendez and Melgen have pleaded not guilty to the charges they faced in the 22-count indictment.

U.S. District Judge William H. Walls ruled in 2015 that the trial should go forward.

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Bob Menendez to face trial on bribery and corruption charges