Judge denies Menendez's motion to dismiss bribery and extortion charges



CNN

A Manhattan judge on Thursday denied a request to dismiss federal bribery and extortion charges against Sen. Bob Menendez on legislative privilege grounds.

The New Jersey Democrat argued that the charges violated the Constitution's doctrine of prerogatives and the speech or debate clause, which protects lawmakers from certain law enforcement actions aimed at their legislative duties.

Judge Sidney Stein slammed the argument on Thursday, ruling that the charges against Menendez cover conduct outside of “legislative acts” and that those legal protections are absent.

Menendez, his wife Nadine Menendez and three New Jersey businessmen were indicted in September as part of a bribery scheme. The indictment was updated a few times with additional charges as prosecutors filed new charges that the senator acted as a foreign agent for Egypt and accepted gifts from Qatar as part of a years-long corruption scheme. Menendez pleaded guilty to the charge.

Menendez may appeal Stein's decision, which could delay his trial, which is set to begin on May 6. A separate motion to dismiss the charges on other grounds is also pending.

The senator's attorney, Adam Fee, told CNN that Menendez's team is reviewing the ruling and its legal options, adding that “the court's decision makes clear that a jury will have the final say on the government's allegations.”

“As we have said from day one, the indictment is a total distortion of the truth, and we continue to be fully confident that a jury will see the truth: Senator Menendez did nothing wrong,” the statement continued. “We look forward to continuing the investigation, where we intend to clear the name of this dedicated lifelong public servant.”

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Thursday's decision comes days after Menendez pleaded not guilty to a dozen new felony charges, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, bribery and extortion. Prosecutors alleged in a third additional charge earlier this month that he led his lawyers to provide false information in interviews with investigators, including claiming the illegal bribes were loans.

Since the allegations first surfaced in September, Menendez has faced calls to resign — including from his own party and his Senate colleagues. The lawmaker has pushed back, saying repeatedly that he will not resign and that he hopes to be released.

CNN's Cara Scannell contributed to this report.

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