Sen. Bob Menendez Strikes Out with Supreme Court–Public Corruption Trial Is On

Sen. Robert Menendez

The Supreme Court said on Monday it will not hear Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) appeal asking that his public corruption indictment be thrown out, reports:

Without comment, the nation’s top court rejected a petition from Menendez lawyers that argued a Philadelphia appeals court misinterpreted the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which bars the executive and judicial branches from questioning a member of Congress about legislative activity.

Menendez is accused of receiving nearly $1 million in bribes, including flights on a private jet, and lodging in Paris and at a Caribbean resort, and contributions to political committees that boosted his re-election efforts in 2012. In exchange, he is accused of using his office to benefit the personal and private interests of codefendant Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend who is a Florida eye specialist.

Melgen is currently on trial in a Florida federal court on separate charges of Medicare fraud.

Menendez and Melgen now will almost certainly stand trial on the public corruption charges in a New Jersey federal court some time in the fall, after Melgen’s medical fraud trial has ended.

The two were indicted on April 1, 2015.

“Both men pleaded not guilty, and Menendez has made numerous arguments seeking to have the indictment thrown out, nearly all of which were rejected by U.S. District Judge William Walls or the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals,” reports:

In appealing to the Supreme Court, Menendez invoked a clause in the Constitution’s immunity clause, a remnant of efforts to shield the English Parliament from intimidation by monarchs in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Among the official acts cited in the indictment are Menendez questioning Medicare officials about a regulation at the heart of a $9 million billing dispute that Melgen had with the government. The senator also reached out to Homeland Security officials about United States-bound cargo from the Dominican Republic when Melgen, a Dominican native, owned a company with a contract to scan outbound containers.

Despite the now virtual certainty he will be tried on public corruption charges in the fall, Sen. Menendez, who has served in the Senate since 2006, has said he intends to run for re-election in 2018, as Politico reported in December.

At the time, Menendez and his aides expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would throw out his public corruption indictment.

Now, in the cold light of day following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal, Menendez may reconsider his initial intentions to run for re-election.

Should a trial begin in the fall, it could continue until the spring or summer of 2018 until its resolution. Defending himself at trial during a re-election year while serving in the Senate could prove to be a very tall order for Menendez.

Menendez, however, has a proven record as a tough political fighter, so it is entirely possible he may choose to dig in for the long run and run for re-election while standing trial.

Should he be convicted, however, his prospects for re-election would be considerably diminished, even in New Jersey, a state with a long record of public officials who have been accused of corruption.

Should Menendez be found not guilty, it would clearly be a political as well as legal victory.

If convicted, Menendez would likely appeal, which sets up several interesting political questions.

Can an incumbent U.S. Senator continue to serve in the Senate after being convicted of a felony, which he or she then appeals?

Can an incumbent U.S. Senator run for re-election after being convicted of a felony, which he or she appeals?

Can an incumbent U.S. Senator, if re-elected after being convicted of a felony that is on appeal, be sworn in for a new term as a member of the Senate?


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