Despite Sen. Robert Menendez's request to be prosecuted at the federal courthouse located blocks from the Capitol, the New Jersey Democrat's corruption trial will take place in Newark.
A federal judge ruled Tuesday on the May 11 motion to change venues, opting to keep the case in the locale where Department of Justice lawyers filed the 22-count indictment. Court rules give judges discretion to transfer cases to other districts “for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice.” Judges must weigh several factors, including the location of the witnesses, defendants and lawyers and the effect on the defendants’ business and judicial caseload.
Menendez's attorneys argued D.C. was the right place because a plurality of the witnesses named in the investigation are from Washington, and the “official acts” the senator allegedly took on behalf of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen almost all took place here. They also claimed a New Jersey trial would disrupt legislative business.
But DOJ lawyers said the Democrat was ignoring the indictment’s allegations he accepted things of value in his home state, and alleged the request demonstrated a “lack of seriousness” about the charges Menendez faces.
A spokeswoman for the senator sounded confident he would be able to fight the allegations, even in New Jersey.
"As he has said from the beginning, Senator Menendez has always acted in accordance with the law and firmly believes that no matter where a jury is located, once we have an opportunity to put forth our case, and a jury hears all of the facts, he will be exonerated," Tricia Enright said in an email.
"Senator Menendez's priority has always been his work on behalf of the people of New Jersey and we plan to do everything possible to ensure that work continues with the least disruption," Enright added.