New Jersey’s senior senator, Bob Menendez, is facing a dozen counts of bribery, conspiracy, and fraud charges in a corruption probe involving one of his close friends. The Democrat’s trial begins Wednesday in federal court.
Prosecutors at the Justice Department accuse Menendez of accepting lavish gifts in exchange for using his political influence to help friend and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.
“For example, if a senator received a gift of a Rolex in exchange for voting a particular way on a bill pending before Congress, that would be an official act,” said former federal judge Stephen Orlofsky, now a partner at the law firm Blank Rome.
Menendez’s defense team will likely claim that he never took an official action to benefit Melgen, and they may get a boost in that argument from the McDonnell decision. “It narrows the grounds on which a bribery conviction can be obtained,” Orlofsky said, “so [prosecutors] have to prove more, for example, than setting up meetings.”
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“Accused of Accepting Lavish Trips and Gifts, Sen. Menendez Goes on Trial,” by Joe Hernandez was published in NPR Morning Edition on September 5, 2017.