A federal appeals court has denied a request by Sen. Robert Menendez to throw out bribery charges against him, ruling that his purported legislative acts are not protected by the Speech and Debate clause.
The New Jersey Democrat has been charged with accepting gifts from Florida-based eye doctor Salomon Melgen that included chartered flights to Paris and the Dominican Republic, which he allegedly did not disclose on Senate financial reports.
Prosecutors also allege Menendez and his staff attempted to use his office to influence an investigation by federal regulators that involved Melgen bilking Medicare of nearly $9 million.
Attorneys for Menendez argued meetings he had with health regulators constituted a “legislative act” in which he was gathering information. But the appeals court ruled Menendez allegedly used his power to informally influence an investigation by the executive branch when he met with health officials during the investigation. The court also found Menendez attempted to intervene on Melgen’s behalf in a multimillion contract dispute with the Dominican Republic.
Menendez has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.