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.