Judge Says No To Dismissing Menendez Charges

A federal judge on March 14 rejected Senator Bob Menendez’s motion to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds of legislative immunity, the Associated Press reported.

Menendez was indicted on four charges of conspiracy in connection to alleged bribes he accepted in exchange for providing favors to three New Jersey businessmen.

In a January motion, attorneys for the New Jersey Democrat had asked US District Judge Sidney Stein to dismiss the charges, arguing that prosecutors in the case were attempting to criminalize normal legislative activity. The defense also argued that Menendez was protected from prosecution by the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause.

In his March 14 decision, Judge Stein rejected each of the defense’s arguments, saying the Constitution’s speech and debate clause was not intended to protect against criminal actions.

He argued that the information Menendez allegedly shared was “part of a corrupt scheme” and would not fall under the characterization of legislative acts.

Just days before Judge Stein’s decision, Menendez was in a New York federal court pleading not guilty to the latest indictment against him that included additional charges of bribery and extortion.

Menendez has insisted that he is innocent of the charges.

In a March 11 statement, Mendendez’s attorney Adam Fee described the charges as “a gross distortion of reality” and asserted that when the case goes to trial, the jury would conclude that the senator “did nothing wrong.”

While the trial is set to begin in May, the defense has indicated that an appeal of Judge Stein’s ruling on the motion to dismiss may require a postponement.

Menendez was charged along with his wife Nadine and the three New Jersey businessmen. However, one of the businessmen, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty in early March to seven charges in exchange for his testimony against the others.