Published On: Fri, Apr 3rd, 2015

Sen Bob Menendez pleads not guilty on criminal charges

Sen. Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 14 criminal counts, which include eight counts of bribery. At the top of the questions is Menendez’s deals, arrangements with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

The 68-page indictment outlines Menendez intervening on behalf of Melgen’s three girlfriends’ visa applications, among other things — and his friendship — which includes nearly $1 million in trips, political contributions and other perks.

Senator Robert Menendez Image/United States Senate

Senator Robert Menendez
Image/United States Senate

During a brief press conference on Wednesday, the senator vehemently asserted his innocence and charged that the prosecutors were the ones who had it wrong.

They “don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption and have chosen to twist my duties as a senator and my friendship into something that is improper,” he said.

Menendez attorney Abbe David Lowell said during the Thursday press conference, prosecutors “have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a 20-year relationship between doctor Melgen and Senator Menendez was something else.”

Emails cited by prosecutors showed that Menendez’s office took it upon itself to help mediate the surgeon’s dispute with Medicare, expedite visas to get girlfriends from other coutries (Brazil, Ukraine) into the US, funding for at least seven lavish Menendez trips and nfearly $1 million in fundraising.

A prosecutor, Peter Koski, seemed to be commenting on the strength of his case when he said during the hearing that the government was “ready for trial at the earliest possible date.”

Mr. Lowell said: “Sure, they have had the case for three years. We have had it for one day.”

Judge Walls set a tentative July 13 trial date for both men.

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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