Menendez bribery case dropped by Justice Department

Feb 01, 2018, 00:36
Menendez bribery case dropped by Justice Department

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 a year ago, the Hill reported.

Prosecutors also sought in a filing in New Jersey federal court to dismiss charges against Dr. Salomon Melgen, the Florida eye doctor who was accused of bribing Menendez. Both denied the allegations, and their 11-week trial ended in November with the jury hopeleslly deadlocked.

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Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell, who clashed often with prosecutors and Judge Walls during the trial, said the Justice Department "made the right decision to end this case" and that Menendez never wavered in his innocence.

Last week U.S. District Judge William Walls threw out some of the bribery charges on the grounds that prosecutors had failed to show that about $660,000 in political contributions from Melgen to help benefit Menendez's 2012 reelection campaign were part of any bribery scheme.

The department also said on Wednesday that it was dropping federal charges against Melgen.

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According to the Justice Department, which filed charges against Menendez in 2015, the senator had accepted perks and gifts from the doctor valued at more than $1 million.

Menendez was accused of accepting trips, hotel stays and campaign money from Melgen and using the power of his office to help Melgen with visas for his girlfriends and in a billing dispute with the Department of Health and Human Services. Melgen faces sentencing for a separate fraud conviction in Florida. At trial, his lawyers argued that the gifts and Menendez's advocacy were explained by his longtime friendship with Melgen.

Melgen never gave anything to Menendez, "his best friend of over 20 years, with any expectation of getting anything in return", said his lawyer, Kirk Ogrosky. "We take no pleasure in seeing justice done at this stage in a case that should never have been brought".

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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 USA visas for the 63-year-old doctor's girlfriends.