first_imgNEWARK – Responding to a defense request to dismiss the corruption case against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-NJ), a federal judge in Newark threw out seven of the most serious bribery charges related to campaign contributions, but allowed the case to proceed on other charges involving gifts and trips given to Menendez.In a last act before withdrawing from the case, U.S. District Judge William Walls – who served as judge during the 2017 Menendez trial, tossed out the most serious charges, saying federal prosecutors failed to prove that campaign donations given to Menendez influenced his decision to help his friend and co-defendant Salomon Melgen navigate the federal bureaucracy in behalf of his business.Menendez’s defense team is expected to request that the other charges also be dropped. But if such a request is made, it’ll have to be before a new judge, once one is assigned, now that Judge Walls has removed himself from the case, said sources with knowledge of the situation.Menendez is accused of corruption because he received sizable campaign contributions from Melgen as well as trips and gifts.Walls declared a mistrial in the 2017 case when the jury reported it was deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal.The Department of Justice announced earlier this month it would seek a retrial.In an event scheduled for Friday, Jan. 26, Hispanic civic and elected leaders from across New Jersey were expected to gather on the steps of Elizabeth City Hall to denounce the U.S. Department of Justice for accusing Menendez, the nation’s highest-ranking Latino elected official and leading immigrant rights advocate, of “racializing” the legal proceedings in court.“Given the Trump Administration’s continuous attacks on immigrants, voting rights and other crucial issues, the state’s Hispanic community fears the decision to retry Senator Menendez is the latest example of the DOJ being weaponized to target minorities,” said a Democratic release issued by the Hispanic leadership.Defense attorneys had asked Walls to dismiss all the charges based on the testimony heard in the previous trial.Walls denied defense requests for a judgment of acquittal on all charges but dismissed the seven of the 18 charges, including the most serious of them that involved campaign contributions.Federal prosecutors claim that Menendez traded the power of his office in exchange for six-figure campaign contributions, luxury hotel stays, and private jet flights. But Walls said prosecutors failed to make a connection between the contributions and the official acts Menendez performed.Melgen, an ophthalmologist, sought the Menendez’s intervention in an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute, a port security contract for one of his companies, and to settle a visa issue for his girlfriend.In a public statement issued last week, Menendez said the retrial has political overtones, coming at a time when he will run for reelection this year. One third of the narrowly divided U.S. Senate will also be up for election.Menendez was an outspoken critic of some policies of President Barack Obama, under whose administration the Justice Department brought the original indictment. He has led the Democratic opposition in a number of areas against policies being instituted under President Donald Trump, especially immigration policy.last_img

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