Two weeks after lawyers for Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) filed a motion in a New Jersey federal court asking for a change of venue in his corruption trial to Washington, D.C., prosecutors for the Department of Justice have told the court they resoundingly oppose any change in venue.
Federal prosecutors, who had until June 30 to file a brief responding to the change of venue request, responded with an opposing motion more than a month ahead of that deadline.
As the Associated Press reports:
Attorneys for Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen had filed the request this month, arguing virtually none of the 22 counts they’re charged with occurred in the state.
In court documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors said Menendez ignores allegations he accepted numerous things of value in New Jersey. They also said his lawyers are based in New York, less than 15 miles from the federal courthouse in Newark, and not in the District of Columbia.
In the brief requesting the change of venue, Menendez’s attorneys, led by veteran white collar crime defense attorney Abbe Lowell, argued that New Jersey was not a good place for the trial, despite Menendez’s residence there and his representation of the state in the United States Senate.
As the New York Times reported at the time:
The basis for trying the case in New Jersey “appears to be radio communications from the pilot of a plane in New Jersey airspace on which Senator Menendez was a passenger,” the brief states. “Needless to say, the pilot’s cabin and the airport control tower were not the ‘nerve center’ of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment.”
The brief argues that the location of the defendants and possible witnesses, the expense to the parties and the location of lawyers and the fact that events at issue took place in Washington are compelling reasons to move the case.
But, in the Department of Justice brief filed Tuesday, prosecutors disputed each point made by the defense.
“Defendant Menendez has now decided that the correct venue is neither New Jersey nor South Florida, but rather Washington, D.C. Defendant Menendez’s results-oriented analysis . . . misreads the indictment and mischaracterizes key facts critical to his motion,” the DOJ brief states.
“Specifically, defendant Menendez ignores the indictment’s allegations that he accepted numerous things of value in New Jersey; he represents to this Court that his attorneys are based in Washington, D.C., when the law firm web site for his attorneys publicly represents that they are in fact based in New York at an address less than 15 miles from the federal courthouse in Newark; and he double-counts some Washington, D.C.-based witnesses while omitting from his analysis some New Jersey-based witnesses,” the brief continues.
The brief argues that Menendez should be tried by his New Jersey constituents and peers.
“Robert Menendez, a United States Senator elected to represent the people of New Jersey, has filed a motion seeking to avoid being tried by a jury of his peers in the State of New Jersey. The Court should not permit this,” the brief notes.
“The defendants,” DOJ prosecutors conclude in the brief, “were indicted for bribery and corruption in the District of New Jersey by a grand jury empaneled in that district, and every count is properly venued there.”
When asked when a decision is expected, Department of Justice spokesperson Peter Carr told Breitbart News, “That is up to the court, which has scheduled a motion hearing for June 30, 2015.”
The court will not make a decision until some time after that hearing.
Menendez’s co-defendant Melgen, a Palm Beach, Florida opthalmologist, remains in a Florida jail cell on a separate Medicare fraud indictment. The judge in that case has denied his bond request. He has been jailed since April 14, and it does not appear that he will be released any time in the near future.
Last week Melgen hired an entirely new defense team, which will now represent him in both trials.
Menendez is free on bond and continues to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate.