Sen. Robert Menendez is facing a federal trial on corruption charges. With his prominent donor Salomon Melgen convicted in a separate case on Friday, Melgen might face pressure to testify against Menendez.
Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, a prominent donor to Sen. Robert Menendez, was found guilty Friday by a South Florida jury on 67 counts of fraud.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Melgen now faces from 15-20 years in federal prison as part of a massive Medicare conspiracy in which prosecutors alleged he misdiagnosed patients and billed Medicare for unnecessary eye surgery.
The Florida case was separate from a federal corruption probe based out of Newark, N.J., where a grand jury indicted both Melgen and Menendez on charges that Melgen made improper gifts to the senior senator of more than $1 million in exchange for Menendez helping Melgen with issues with federal officials.
“I have spoken to Senator Menendez and he is saddened for his long-time friend and is thinking of his family on this difficult day,” Menendez counsel Abbe Lowell said in a Friday statement. “As we have known for the past two years, the issues involved in Dr. Melgen’s case in South Florida had no bearing on the allegations made against the Senator, and this verdict will have no impact on him.”
Menendez has said he expects to prevail at a federal trial, which is likely to take place this September at the federal courthouse in Newark. In March, the Supreme Court declined to take up an effort by the senator to get charges thrown out.
“It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to set a clear, bright line of the separation of powers to ensure that Congress remains an independent and co-equal branch of government, free of interference and retribution from the Executive as the Framers intended. While the Senator always understood it is rare that the Supreme Court hears any case before trial, given the gravity of the Constitutional issues raised, he believed it was important to try,” Menendez counsel Abbe Lowell said in a statement at the time.
Lowell called the government’s case against Menendez, “wild allegations.”
Menendez has maintained his innocence throughout the legal process.
“I stand by Senator Menendez in his continued fight and I believe that he’ll, at the end of the day, prevail,” Booker said.
New Jersey Democrats have been largely unconcerned about the political future of the long time senator, including his prospects for re-election in 2018.
But Friday’s verdict in South Florida would seem to increase the chances that Melgen, now facing more than a decade behind bars, might decide to testify against Menendez.