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01 February 2018, 12:35 | Bernice Figueroa
DOJ Attempts To Let Menendez Off The Hook
Annalou Tirol, acting head of the Justice Department's public integrity division, moved to dismiss the indictment following U.S. District Judge William Walls' decision to acquit Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, on seven of the 18 counts they faced in their corruption and bribery trial previous year, the Hillreported.
Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, were originally charged with bribery and corruption, but a federal jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict during a trial that ended in a mistrial late in 2017.
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"In light of the results of a three month trial, all the jury said and the granting of our motion for acquittal on significant counts, we are pleased and grateful that the Justice Department made the right decision to end this case", Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell said Wednesday. Prosecutors said he took gifts from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, including a luxury hotel stay, private jet flights and campaign donations, in exchange for which he tried to help Melgen get US visas for his girlfriends, intervened in the eye doctor's $8.9 million billing dispute with Medicare and assisted with a port security contract of Melgen's in the Dominican Republic.
Menendez and Melgen pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Another former US prosecutor, Lee Vartan, said that the case was weak from the start and that the Justice Department shouldn't have pursued a retrial.
In a legal filing Wednesday, prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the indictment.
Menendez is now likely to run for reelection in November with the full support of his party, without the cloud of a corruption trial hanging over him.
The judge's ruling left 11 counts pending against Melgen and Menendez.
Melgen, who was convicted separately in a Medicare fraud case in Florida, refused to cooperate with the government, hobbling the bribery case from the start. Prosecutors lacked smoking-gun evidence and failed to prove a corrupt bargain between the senator and the doctor, he said. Without tapes or a cooperating witness talking about a bribery scheme, the government was forced to make a circumstantial case tying trips to favors.
Melgen never gave anything to Menendez, "his best friend of over 20 years, with any expectation of getting anything in return", said his lawyer, Kirk Ogrosky.
Even after the charges and the trial, Menendez never wavered in his intent to seek re-election later this year.
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