Judge refuses to toss bribery case against NJ senator, says 'stream of benefits' theory still valid
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. lev radin / Shutterstock.com
A federal judge in Newark has refused to dismiss the corruption case against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, turning aside a defense argument that the bribery law did not reach the Democrat’s alleged crimes.
U.S. District Judge William Walls rejected arguments that Menendez was shielded by the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, report NJ.com, Reuters and Politico.
The Supreme Court ruled last year in the McDonnell case that government officials aren’t guilty of taking “official action” in exchange for bribes under the bribery law unless the actions involve a formal exercise of governmental power.
Menendez’s lawyers argued the Supreme Court decision had invalidated the “stream of benefits” theory being used to prosecute Menendez, according to the Politico article. The theory says a government official’s actions can constitute bribery when they are linked to gifts received over a long time period. The New York Times has more on the theory and the trial here.
Walls said he saw nothing in the McDonnell case that attacked the stream of benefits theory.
Prosecutors allege Menendez had pressured numerous officials to help Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen get visas for foreign girlfriends, resolve a Medicare dispute and obtain a port security contract. They claim Menendez was rewarded with political donations, luxury vacations and other gifts.
Defense lawyers said Menendez had merely vacationed with Melgen and many political donations went to committees that Menendez didn’t control.
ABAJournal.com: “Menendez lawyer claims decision language ‘disparaged the defense’; federal judge tells him ‘shut up’”
ABAJournal.com: “NJ senator pleads not guilty to federal corruption charges”