U.S. to Drop Graft Charges Against Sen. Bob Menendez

Feb 01, 2018, 00:16
U.S. to Drop Graft Charges Against Sen. Bob Menendez

Annalou Tirol, acting head of the Justice Department's public integrity division, moved to dismiss the indictment following U.S. District Judge William Walls' decision to acquit Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, on seven of the 18 counts they faced in their corruption and bribery trial previous year, the Hill reported. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on corruption charges, an abrupt about-face that keeps him from another arduous trial and likely protects his place in the Senate.

Though prosecutors initially asked for the "earliest possible date" to retry Menendez, Judge Walls threw a wrench in that plan with a ruling on December 24 that dismissed six of the bribery charges against Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

The decision comes one week after a federal judge acquitted Menendez and his co-defendant, wealthy patron Solomon Melgen, of seven of the 18 counts they faced.

The senator's attorneys contended Melgen's gifts were tokens of friendship, not bribes, and argued that Menendez's meetings with executive branch officials were focused on broader policy issues than just Melgen's business interests.

Linares held a 15-minute status conference with lawyers in the case on Wednesday morning, and prosecutors filed their motion to dismiss the case less than an hour later, court records show.

"Given the impact of the Court's January 24 Order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges", said DOJ spokesperson Nicole Navas Oxman. Melgen faces sentencing for a separate fraud conviction in Florida. "So it was always to going to be hard for prosecutors". "All that said, justice today is better than continuing on to inevitable acquittals on the remaining counts", he added.

In the ruling, Walls found that the timing of Melgren's donations to Menendez in and of itself did not prove bribery.

Prosecutors said Menendez, in return, pressured government officials on Melgen's behalf over an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and a stalled contract to provide port screening equipment in the Dominican Republic, and also helped obtain US visas for the 63-year-old doctor's girlfriends.

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