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U.S. to Drop Graft Charges Against Sen. Bob Menendez
01 February 2018, 12:39 | Kara Nash
Feds drop remaining charges against Sen. Menendez
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they would drop their bribery case against U.S. Sen. The first trial for Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen ended in a hung jury last November.
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The retreat on the Menendez case marks a setback for public integrity prosecutors at the Justice Department, as legal experts have questioned whether their authority to pursue such cases will be more limited in the wake of the Menendez mistrial and an earlier Supreme Court ruling.
Menendez, 64, was charged with trading his political influence for gifts and campaign donations from Melgen, 63.
In response to the Justice Department's decision to drop the charges, Menendez said in a statement, "From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail".
The department also said on Wednesday that it was dropping federal charges against Melgen.
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Attorneys for Menendez argued that interbranch lobbying - a senator talking with an appointed department head - could not form the basis of an official act for the purposes of proving quid pro quo.
Menendez was accused of accepting trips, hotel stays and campaign money from Melgen and using the power of his office to help Melgen with visas for his girlfriends and in a billing dispute with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Melgen was separately convicted of a Medicare fraud in Florida and is awaiting sentencing in that case in July.
Melgen never gave anything to Menendez, "his best friend of over 20 years, with any expectation of getting anything in return", said his lawyer, Kirk Ogrosky.
Sebelius testified past year during the trial that it was unusual for her to be involved in a billing dispute, and another staffer testified that Menendez had become angry during the meeting when the matter was not resolved. "We take no pleasure in seeing justice done at this stage in a case that should never have been brought". His poll ratings dipped dramatically during the trial, but he has a formidable network of political allies and $3.9 million on hand in his campaign bank account.
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