Published: Mon, March 20, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

US Supreme Court won't throw out Sen. Menendez charges

US Supreme Court won't throw out Sen. Menendez charges

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to throw out the federal indictment against U.S. Sen.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a blow to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez's request to review his federal corruption case, clearing the way for his trial to move forward in September.

Prosecutors allege Menendez accepted campaign donations and gifts, including a stay at a Caribbean villa and private jet flights, from Melgen in exchange for interceding in various matters on his friend's behalf, including an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute.

The appeal argued that Menendez's alleged conduct was immune from legal scrutiny because it fell under "the sphere of legitimate legislative activity", which is protected by the Speech or Debate Clause [text] of the US Constitution.

Prosecutors say Menendez intervened to help the ophthalmologist in a Medicare overbilling case, a contract dispute with the Dominican Republic, and visa applications for three girlfriends.

When that appeal was denied, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which denied without comment to dismiss the charges against Menendez this week.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled on July 29 against Menendez, saying the Justice Department had not violated the senator's constitutional privilege under the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says members of Congress can't be held to account "for any speech or debate in either house".

Lowell said the senator maintains his innocence.

Menendez said he was targeted by the Justice Department because he opposed President Obama's actions toward Cuba and Iran. While Menendez's informal efforts were "ambiguously legislative in nature", U.S. District Judge William Walls correctly found that meetings and emails showed his actions were "essentially lobbying on behalf of a particular party", the appellate court said.

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