NEWARK, N.J. — The destiny of Sen. Bob Menendez is now within the jury’s arms.
With the New Jersey Democrat’s profession and freedom hanging within the stability, his protection lawyer stated Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a rich Florida physician, was a longstanding friendship — not a corrupt connection as claimed by the Justice Department.
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“This case is not about what was done, it’s about why it was done,” Abbe Lowell stated in his closing argument of the bribery trial, the primary involving a sitting senator in a technology. “Friendship explains that.”
A federal prosecutor countered that Menendez did Melgen’s bidding in return for bribes, saying Melgen “paid Bob Menendez to be his personal U. S senator.”
“Your common sense tells you this is corruption,” Peter Koski, a prime Justice Department prosecutor, informed jurors. “Their technique comes right down to technique and misdirection. Spend sufficient time speaking about friendship, possibly the jury will neglect about bribery… Do not let the protection get away with this.”
The dueling views of Menendez performed out in the course of the remaining arguments of Menendez’s bribery trial, which has lasted 9 weeks in a federal courthouse in Newark, N.J. The jury is now deliberating Menendez’s destiny, virtually 5 years after Menendez’s relationship with Melgen first attracted media consideration.
For Menendez, the stakes couldn’t be increased. A bribery conviction may lead to years in jail for the 63-year-old lawmaker. And whereas Menendez may not face rapid expulsion from the Senate if discovered responsible, it might be the tip of a outstanding political profession that noticed him rise from the schooling board in Union City, N.J., to a high-profile U.S. senator.
Following a prolonged FBI legal probe, Menendez was indicted in April 2015 for allegedly taking official acts on Melgen’s behalf in trade for personal jet flights, resort rooms and practically $750,000 in marketing campaign contributions on to the New Jersey Democrat or political organizations that supported him.
In flip, Menendez intervened in a multi-million greenback Medicare billing dispute on Melgen’s behalf, helped obtained visas for a number of Melgen girlfriends, and lobbied State Department officers relating to a $500 million port safety contract Melgen firm had with the Dominican Republic.
Melgen, 63, has already been convicted within the Medicare billing dispute and is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have really helpful a 30-year sentence in that case.
Lowell repeatedly baderted that not one of the official acts taken by Menendez on Melgen’s behalf had been unlawful or out of the atypical. According to the well-known protection legal professional, the Justice Department did not show Melgen bribed Menendez as a result of it may by no means present any settlement between the 2 males to interact in legal acts, a key ingredient of bribery circumstances.
“There was no corrupt agreement,” Lowell declared, calling it “the fatal flaw” within the authorities’s case. It was a degree he hit time and again throughout his practically three-hour presentation. “There was no real evidence of a corrupt bribery agreement, because one never happened.”
“There was no documents, no emails, no phone calls, no nothing,” Lowell added. “And [federal prosecutors] did something I didn’t expect — they even invented witnesses.”
As Lowell displayed footage of the 2 males stress-free at social occasions — and a Menendez marketing campaign video — he attacked the Justice Department’s case intimately, making an attempt to level out inconsistencies and contradictions within the prosecutors’ arguments. Menendez sat quietly on the protection desk as Lowell made his presentation. Melgen sat close by, displaying no emotion.
Calling them “Bob and Sal,” Lowell stated Menendez took official acts that aided Melgen due to their friendship, not as a result of he was bribed.
Lowell portrayed Menendez and Melgen as “two self-made men” of Hispanic heritage — Menendez was born in Cuba, Melgen comes from the Dominican Republic — who discovered it simpler to be collectively than with others. Menendez and Melgen first met at a fundraiser in Florida in 1993. Lowell stated the 2 males’s households had been very shut, and famous Menendez and Melgen even stayed in the identical resort room as soon as throughout a visit.
Lowell claimed that Menendez’s failure to report resort rooms and personal jet flights paid for by Melgen was attributable to oversight, not an try to hide legal acts or their relationship.
“Bob Menendez and Sal Melgen did not have any reason to hide their friendship and interactions, and they didn’t,” Lowell stated, who famous that Menendez talked about Melgen in a ebook, and even attending the marriage of Melgen’s daughter. “Where is there proof these two men were trying to conceal their relationship?”
Lowell tried to clarify away probably the most controversial a part of the Menendez-Melgen relationship: Menendez’s makes an attempt to strain the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Health and Human Services Department in Melgen’s billing dispute. Menendez lobbied former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in 2012 to arrange a gathering with former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to debate the difficulty. Sebelius testified she “was asked to discuss a practice involving a billing issue before Medicare and Medicaid services.”
According to Lowell, the badembly occurred as a result of Obama administration officers wished Menendez’s badist with a nomination, along with questions over how a sure drug was billed by Medicare. Melgen used that drug extensively at his eye clinics in Miami.
In his personal response, Koski pounded Menendez and Melgen, mocking protection claims that Menendez wasn’t enriched by Melgen’s items and that their friendship doesn’t imply they didn’t commit legal acts.
“[Melgen] needed power, needed action, needed results on his issues,” Koski stated. “The issue in this case isn’t about friendship. It’s about bribery… Friendship and bribery can coexist.”
Koski stated Melgen had tens of millions of at stake in his disputes with the U.S. and Dominican governments, and he bought badist from Menendez on all of them.
Koski additionally famous that Melgen wrote a $300,000 verify to a Democratic tremendous PAC simply days earlier than a gathering with Tavenner, linking Menendez’s efforts to Melgen’s Medicare billing issues.
“Sen. Menendez’s meetings with top HHS and CMS officials were directly linked to Dr. Melgen,” Koski stated as he outlined why prime Obama administration well being officers bought concerned in a comparatively minor billing combat.
“This is not how United States senators behave,” Koski concluded. “This is corruption. Do not let them get away with this.”