TRENTON – New Jersey’s Sen. Robert Menendez will have to face corruption charges in his home state rather than in Washington, D.C., his judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge William Walls, who is hearing the case in Newark, denied a motion by Menendez’s legal team to move the venue to Washington, D.C. Menendez’s lawyers had argued that D.C. was the “nerve center” of the issues to be argued, and that keeping the case there would also allow the senator to continue his work with far less interruption.
“Although many of Senator Menendez’s alleged acts took place in Washington, these are only part of the government’s case,” Walls said in today’s ruling, according to news reports. “This case will certainly not be better off in the District of Columbia.”
Prosecutors had fought to keep the case in New Jersey, and disputed the notion of a single nerve center. News reports say Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Koski told Walls the case could just as easily be tried in the Dominican Republic, or in Paris-two of the lavish destinations they say Menendez received trips to in exchange for helping a friend slough off Medicare fraud charges.
Menendez was indicted in April on eight counts of bribery for allegedly accepting $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Florida ophthalmologist, friend, and frequent political donation contributor Salomen Melgen, who also faces bribery charges and allegations of more than $100 million in fraudulent Medicare bills.
Prosecutors say Menendez accepted flights on Melgen’s private jet, vacations to the Dominican Republic, and a hotel room in Paris in exchange for influencing an investigation into Melgen’s Medicare billing.
The Democratic senator also used his office to help push through tourist and student visa applications for several of Melgen’s girlfriends and pressured TK to intervene in a dispute between the eye doctor and Dominican officials over cargo container screening, prosecutors claim.
Menendez had not disclosed any of the reportable gifts, a major no-no under current campaign finance laws.
“This is not how my career is going to end,” Menendez said at a press conference shortly after the indictments. “These accusations contradict my public service career and my entire life.”
Menendez’s lawyer, Abbe David Lowell at Chadbourne, could not be reached for comment.
Menendez, who faces a maximum of 15 years per charge, pleaded not guilty to all the charges and faces trial on Oct. 13. Melgen is being held in jail without bail.
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