NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Indicted U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez asked Monday to have his federal corruption case moved from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., arguing that virtually none of the 22 counts alleged occurred in the state.
Attorneys for Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen filed the request in Newark. Abbe Lowell, Menendez's attorney, said during a court proceeding three weeks ago that he likely would file for a venue change. The government will have a chance to respond to the motion.
The New Jersey Democrat is charged with accepting gifts and donations totaling about $1 million from Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, in exchange for political favors. The gifts included flights aboard a luxury jet and a Paris vacation.
In exchange, Menendez is alleged to have sought to advance Melgen's business interests, including intervening in a Medicare billing dispute worth millions of dollars.
Menendez has said he accepted gifts from Melgen because the two have been close friends for years.
Monday's motion argues that Menendez isn't charged with any acts that took place in New Jersey. The government began the investigation and grand jury presentation in Florida before moving the case to the state, the brief says.
The basis for trying the case in New Jersey "appears to be radio communications from the pilot of a plane in New Jersey airspace on which Senator Menendez was a passenger," the brief states. "Needless to say, the pilot's cabin and the airport control tower were not the 'nerve center' of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment."
The brief argues that the location of the defendants and possible witnesses, the expense to the parties and the location of attorneys and the fact that events at issue took place in Washington are compelling reasons to move the case from New Jersey.
Melgen also was charged in a separate 76-count indictment in Florida alleging he made false diagnoses and performed unnecessary surgeries that he then billed to Medicare.