A jury is currently deliberating a verdict in the corruption trial for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The New Jersey Democrat’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen has been made front-and-center in this trial. The charge is that Menendez allowed his office to be used to help Melgen, while the Florida-based ophthalmologist gave the senator lavish gifts. Here’s a rundown of some of the activities and charges:
Specifically, Menendez is accused of taking bribes to:
• Influence immigration visas so Melgen girlfriends from Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine could visit him in Florida.
• Pressure the State Department to convince the Dominican government to honor a Melgen-owned company's exclusive contract to screen outbound cargo containers.
• Stop the Homeland Security Department from donating cargo-screening equipment to the Dominican government.
• Influence Medicare officials in a $9 million billing dispute over Melgen being reimbursed for administering multiple doses of an expensive eye drug drawn from what were supposed to be single-dose vials.
August 2010 flights: Menendez flew in Melgen's jet from Washington to the Dominican Republic for a vacation at Melgen's villa in Casa De Campo, then back to Teterboro Airport three days later. Menendez reimbursed Melgen, at charter rates, in January 2013, after an investigation was launched. (Bribery counts 3 and 4)
September 2010 flights and hotel: Menendez and a guest flew in Melgen's jet to the Dominican Republic to attend a wedding in Punta Cana with Melgen and his wife. After staying in a hotel, for which Melgen paid $770, Menendez and guest flew back to Teterboro three days later. Menendez reimbursed Melgen for the cost of the flights in January 2013. (Bribery counts 5 and 6, and Honest services fraud count 15)
October 2010 flights: Melgen bought an $890 first-class ticket for Menendez to fly from Newark to Florida, then paid $8,037 two days later for Menendez take a charter flight back to the Washington, D.C., area. (Bribery counts 7 and 8 and Honest services fraud count 16)
May 2012 contributions: After an email request from Menendez's chief of staff, Melgen and his family gave $60,000, of which $20,000 went to the Fund to Uphold the Constitution, a legal expense fund Menendez created to battle a recall effort; and $40,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee (Bribery counts 9 and 10)
June 2012 contributions: Melgen's clinic, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, gave $300,000 earmarked for New Jersey to Majority PAC, a national super PAC working to keep Democrats in the Senate majority. (Bribery counts 11 and 12)
September-October 2012 contributions: $403,500 donated by VRC between Sept. 30 and Oct. 12 included $103,500 combined to county Democratic organizations of Camden, Essex, Passaic and Union counties and $300,000 to Majority PAC. (Bribery counts 13 and 14; Honest services fraud count 17)
In mid-October, the Menendez defense team’s hope that some of the charges would be dropped went up in flames when federal Judge William H. Walls declined to dismiss any of the 18 counts brought before the senator. Now, Matt Friedman of Politico is reporting that a juror was dismissed due to a planned vacation, but this person said she would have been a solid not guilty vote. This juror thinks that the trial will end in a hung jury.
“While this is an encouraging sign for Menendez, it's also very unfortunate for him,” tweeted Friedman. “This juror would have been a firm not guilty vote on all charges. She says she wouldn't have been moved. Now she's off the jury.”