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Menendez Hopes Friendship With Donor Overcomes Tawdry Testimony

  • N.J. senator accused of taking trips, campaign cash for favors
  • Florida eye doctor convicted of separate health-care fraud

To hear prosecutors tell it, Senator Robert Menendez was corrupted by a Florida eye doctor who lavished him with a stream of gifts -- like private jet travel, a Paris hotel suite and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations -- to buy clout with government officials.

But the New Jersey Democrat and the physician, Salomon Melgen, will begin their corruption trial this week with a very different tale -- one focused on two decades of warm friendship far removed from the sort of gift-for-favor bargain that could send them to prison.