Updated: 12:49 p.m. | A jury will hear corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez after all, leaving intact federal prosecutors’ case against the New Jersey Democrat.
U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls said the evidence the Justice Department presented in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, appeared to meet the legal test for proving bribery under federal law, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors rested their case last week. Defense lawyers will now begin presenting their case.
“The jury will decide what happened,” Walls said.
Menendez’ legal team was hoping the judge would dismiss most of the charges.
If that had happened, the New Jersey Democrat, who has been on trial in a Newark federal courtroom on a slew of public corruption charges, could have thanked former Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Walls had indicated last week that he viewed the opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. overturning McDonnell’s corruption conviction as nullifying the “stream of benefits” theory presented by the federal prosecutors in the Menendez case.
The prosecution argument was, as The New York Times put it, that the continued gifts from Menendez’s relationship with South Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen amounted to a “retainer” for providing Melgen with improper assistance.
Walls was weighing whether the lack of a direct connection between an individual gift and an individual act was sufficient to prove bribery under the definition in the McDonnell decision.
The only thing Walls would say for sure last week after the prosecution rested its case was that the final count in the 18-count indictment was going to be presented to jurors at the end of the process.
That final count deals not with alleged bribery or honest services fraud, but with paperwork.
The government argues that Menendez made false statements when he filed financial disclosures under the Ethics in Government Act that contained a variety of gifts from Melgen.
Menendez did not report chartered flights and first-class airfare provided by Melgen, nor did he report gifts of hotel rooms provided by Melgen in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and in Paris.