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Judge declines to dismiss Menendez charges

17 October 2017

Sen. Menendez was typically upbeat as he left the courthouse saying, "I look forward to putting on all of our defense".

Earlier Monday, the judge denied the defense's motion to dismiss the charges because they didn't meet a narrower definition of bribery under a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

U.S. District Judge William Walls in Newark, New Jersey, allowed the trial to proceed on all charges.

The defense called Flor Melgen, the doctor's wife, testified in Spanish that the family called Melgen and Menendez "Sal-Bob", because they're like family. In recent months, the McDonnell ruling led judges to throw out bribery convictions of at least three other former public officials, including a former Louisiana congressman.

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Menendez is charged with accepting free flights on a private jet and other gifts from wealthy Florida doctor Salomon Melgen (MEHL'-gehn) in exchange for pressuring government officials to take actions favorable to the friend's business interests.

Walls last week had reportedly cast doubt on the charges, but on Monday he said the "court concludes that a rational jury could determine that the defendants entered into a quid pro quo agreement".

The defense argued that much of the government's case rested on allegations that fall short under the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling overturning the bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov.

Walls' rejection of the defense lawyers' arguments is a victory for prosecutors, who had said that dismissing the charges would torpedo almost all other bribery cases and open the door wide to graft. Menendez's defense team will now begin presenting its case.

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But prosecutors said the Supreme Court's McDonnell ruling did not foreclose cases like this one. They have argued prosecutors haven't linked any alleged bribes to specific actions by Menendez.

If Menendez is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for the most serious charge of honest services fraud.

In return, the government said, Menendez helped get visas for Melgen's girlfriends, aided a Melgen-owned company with a contract worth millions for port security in the Dominican Republic, and leaned on federal regulators after Melgen was accused of overbilling Medicare for almost $9 million.

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Judge declines to dismiss Menendez charges