Menendez Rests Bribery Defense After Mistrial Bid Rejected

Updated on
  • Eight-week trial of senator and friend nears its conclusion
  • Closing arguments may begin as early as Wednesday morning

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and his co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, rested their defense in a New Jersey corruption trial on Monday after a judge rejected their request for a mistrial.

Eight weeks of occasionally star-studded testimony by the likes of Senator Cory Booker and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to an anticlimactic conclusion. The final defense witness was a law firm analyst who testified about flight records in a bid to show that Menendez’s frequent travels to Melgen’s Dominican Republic home were part of a long-term friendship, rather than a corrupt pact between the men.

Menendez, the senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey, stands accused of using his office to carry out favors for Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor. In exchange, Melgen is accused of providing the prominent Democrat with hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions and luxury trips to the Dominican Republic and Paris.

Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge William Walls rejected a defense motion to declare a mistrial on the grounds that his rulings had prevented attorneys for Menendez and Melgen from countering the government’s charges.

“We feel stifled, and we feel we are not doing a good job,” Menendez’s lawyer Abbe Lowell told the judge Monday.

The effort to characterize Walls’s conduct as grounds to dismiss the case was “nothing more than a colossal motion for reconsideration” of his earlier rulings, the judge said in rejecting the motion.

Before recessing, Walls indicated he intends to begin working out jury instructions with attorneys on Tuesday and that closing arguments could begin as early as Wednesday morning when the jury is scheduled to return.

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