Menendez appealing judge's rulings in corruption case

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 4:54 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Attorneys for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey filed notice Friday that they will appeal a judge's rulings rejecting their arguments to dismiss his corruption indictment.

Last month a federal judge in Newark dismissed some bribery counts from the 22-count indictment against Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, but rejected most of Menendez's arguments to dismiss the indictment. This week, the same judge rejected the Democrat's remaining attempts to have the case thrown out.

The notice Friday the case to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, where a three-judge panel will hear arguments at a date to be determined.

Menendez is charged with accepting campaign donations and gifts in exchange for political influence. He and Melgen have pleaded not guilty. Menendez has said he accepted gifts from Melgen because the two have been close friends for years.

Central to Menendez's defense is that his actions connected to a Medicare dispute and a business deal in the Dominican Republic, which the government contends were on behalf of Melgen specifically, were routine legislative work protected by the Constitution's speech or debate clause. That law shields elected officials from being questioned by prosecutors about legislative work.

Menendez's argument on the clause could wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of the trial, now expected to start next year. The trial was originally set to begin this month.

In September, U.S. District Judge William Walls threw out four bribery charges against Menendez and Melgen, but said most of the charges leveled against them in April could go to trial. The dismissed counts, two against each defendant, stemmed from two $20,000 donations made by Melgen to a legal defense fund for Menendez.

Walls also rejected Menendez's claims that the indictment should be dismissed because the government presented false testimony to a grand jury.

On Thursday, the judge also denied Menendez's argument that he couldn't be charged in New Jersey for allegedly filing a false financial disclosure form because it was filed in Washington, D.C.

Previously, Walls denied Menendez's motion to have the case switched from New Jersey to Washington.