The defense in the case of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is scheduled to begin its case on Monday, but first Judge William Walls is expected to rule on a motion to dismiss it, a motion that he hinted he was considering during arguments about the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the New York Times reports. The friendship between Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen was forged over decades, through weddings and luxury beach vacations, golf outings and shared meals. The friendship was soon contaminated, federal prosecutors say, by avarice and a thirst for power.
Prosecutors say Melgen, who built his fortune through a Florida ophthalmology practice and international investments believed that he should not be encumbered by the kinds of regulations others might have to follow and saw in Menendez a path to that existence. Menendez looked at the life of luxury his public salary could not buy and saw in his friend Dr. Melgen a gateway to that opulence, prosecutors say. Menendez is accused of accepting lavish gifts and donations in return for political favors for Dr. Melgen. Judge Walls has suggested that he was leaning toward interpreting the Supreme Court ruling in the McDonnel case as invalidating a theory of bribery, known as “stream of benefits,” that is central to the government’s case. The high court decision also set a high bar for what constitutes the kind of act an elected official must perform to have an exchange qualify as bribery. Setting up meetings for constituents or making a phone call on behalf of a constituent no longer qualifies.