U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls denied the defense’s request for a mistrial Monday and the defense rested its case in the ninth week of the bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Menendez is charged with 18 counts of fraud and bribery, along with Dr. Salomon Melgen, for helping him resolve an $8.9 million Medicare dispute and for obtaining visas for Melgen’s foreign girlfriends in exchange for gifts and around $750,000 in political contributions.
Lawyers for Menendez and Melgen argued Thursday that Judge Walls kept them from introducing evidence and key witnesses, affecting their ability to give a fair defense.
“The defense wants to spend morning, noon and night discussing the contracts in each case, the issue of multiple dosages and the issue of scanning with regard to the security contract with regard to the port in the Dominican Republic,” Judge Walls said Monday. “It’s a question for this court to determine when enough is enough. It’s not a question that the court interferes with your presentation of the defense. Absolutely not."
Walls said the motion for mistrial had “no palpable merit.”
Menendez’s legal team has been struggling to defend their client and even claimed in September that the trial was an “attack” on Hispanic-Americans.
Peter Koski, the lead prosecutor in the case, pointed out that, before the trial began, Menendez blamed the Cuban government, President Obama and Republican operative Roger Stone.
“The defendants are unwilling to accept responsibility for their conduct and this motion is more evidence of that,” Koski said, adding the defense “grossly mischaracterizes the record in the effort to generate a public narrative that they’re not getting a fair trial.”
Both Menendez and Melgen elected not to take the stand in their own defense. The judge has instructed the jury to return Wednesday.