- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2015

A federal judge dealt a blow Monday to Sen. Robert Menendez, denying motions to dismiss the majority of criminal charges lodged against him as part of a corruption investigation.

Attorneys for Mr. Menendez and wealthy eye doctor Salomon Melgen, who donated to the New Jersey Democrat’s campaign, had sought to get the entire bribery case dismissed. But U.S. District Judge William Walls agreed to throw out just four bribery charges of the 22 criminal charges filed against the pair.

The charges that were dismissed were related to two separate donations of $20,000 that Dr. Melgen was alleged to have given to The Fund to Uphold the Constitution, a legal defense trust fund benefiting Mr. Menendez.

Judge Walls wrote in an opinion issued Monday that prosecutors did not meet the legal standard to bring the bribery charges in that case. Prosecutors had not linked the donations to the fund to “an explicit agreement tied to the donations” nor did the fund benefit the senator’s 2012 campaign, Judge Walls wrote.

Mr. Menendez was accused in April of accepting close to $1 million campaign contributions and lavish gifts — including a Paris vacation, golf outings and trips to the Dominican Republic aboard a private jet — from Dr. Melgen in exchange for political and business favors. Prosecutors said the senator advocated on behalf of the doctor over a Medicare billing dispute worth approximately $8.9 million, and helped three of Dr. Melgen’s girlfriends obtain visas.

Attorneys for the pair have attacked the indictment on several grounds, arguing that the gifts and contributions were tokens of a decades-long friendship and did not represent any effort to curry political influence, and that the indictment risked criminalizing routine interactions between politicians and their supporters.

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