Prosecutors drop bribery case against Sen. Bob Mendendez

by Abel Hampton February 1, 2018, 0:15
Prosecutors drop bribery case against Sen. Bob Mendendez

The Department of Justice moved on Wednesday to dismiss the remaining charges against Senator Robert Menendez, just weeks after prosecutors announced their intent to retry him on federal corruption charges, a decision that would allow the New Jersey Democrat to avoid running for re-election while under indictment.

The investigation dated to late 2012 after a story appeared on a conservative website claiming Menendez and Melgen consorted with prostitutes at Melgen's home in the Dominican Republic.

Though prosecutors initially asked for the "earliest possible date" to retry Menendez, Judge Walls threw a wrench in that plan with a ruling on December 24 that dismissed six of the bribery charges against Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

He also nixed was a fraud charge from the 18-count indictment involving a $300,000 donation that Melgen had made to the Senate Majority political action committee that was earmarked for New Jersey.

Menedez and Melgen's defense attorneys argued the pair were friends and any favors exchanged were in that vein, not as the result of a quid pro quo, which would have constituted briber. The judge said a 2016 Supreme Court ruling had undercut a large part of the government's theory in the case.

"The United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges", a Justice Department spokeswoman said in an email.

Menendez, in turn, allegedly tried to help Melgen get USA visas for his girlfriends, brought his influence to bear in an $8.9 million billing dispute with Medicare and helped out with a port security contract in the Dominican Republic. Melgen faces sentencing for a separate fraud conviction in Florida.

In exchange for these frills, Menendez allegedly helped Melgen obtain visas for the doctor's girlfriends and help Melgen with a major Medicare billing dispute.

"Any time you have a political corruption case that doesn't include a cooperating witness, you've got a hard case to prove", Mintz said.

"Given the impact of the court's January 24 order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges", the Justice Department said in a statement.

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