U.S. District Judge William Walls denied a motion from convicted felon Dr. Salomon Melgen on Wednesday to postpone the public corruption trial in a New Jersey federal court in which he is a co-defendant along with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
The Dominican-born opthalmologist will be sentenced for those crimes on August 11 in Florida. The public corruption trial in which he is a co-defendant along with Menendez is scheduled to begin in a New Jersey federal courtroom in September.
“Melgen, 62, of Palm Beach, Fla., is also accused in the New Jersey case of providing nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions to the Democratic senator, which prosecutors said were bribes for the senator’s intervention in government matters,” NewJersey.com reported.
Menendez’s “intervention in government matters” involves improperly lobbying the Secretary of Health and Human Services on Melgen’s behalf on a billing issue, Department of Justice attorneys argue.
“In a motion filed June 29, Melgen’s defense team asked U.S. District Judge William H. Walls to delay the trial until October, arguing that Melgen’s sentencing in the Medicare fraud case — scheduled for Aug. 11 — will be ‘heavily litigated,’ ” according to NewJersey.com:
Melgen faces an effective life prison sentence if no deal is reached with prosecutors.
“Given the close proximity between sentencing in that matter and the trial here, Dr. Melgen’s defense team will be forced to divide its time and attention between preparing for a complex sentencing hearing and preparing for trial,” attorney Matthew Menchel wrote.
Walls denied the motion in one-paragraph decision issued Wednesday, ruling that the September trial date “has long been established.”
Despite the pending public corruption trial, Menendez vows to seek re-election in 2018.
But co-defendant Melgen faces pressures to cut a deal with prosecutors and testify against Menendez.
“Given the draconian sentence he faces on the fraud charges, the doctor might be wise to turn state’s evidence against the senator. That would make things even tougher for the defense,” Paul Mulshine wrote recently at The Star-Ledger.
They’re tough enough already, says Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano.
“I think this is very, very glum for him,” said Napolitano, who was a Superior Court judge in Bergen County before beginning his media career. “He should be negotiating for as short a jail sentence as he can.”
Should Menendez go to trial and be convicted, he will place the New Jersey Democratic Party in an awkward position should he choose to run for re-election in 2018 while appealing a potential conviction.
Such a circumstance could result in the improbable situation of placing New Jersey’s safe Democratic seat in the Senate up for grabs, another bad sign for Democrats in a year where ten incumbent Democratic senators who represent states Donald Trump won in 2016 are up for re-election.