Senator Bob Menendez, who is on trial in federal court for bribery and other corruption charges, will formally seek a mistrial, citing that the judge overseeing the case is biased and has prevented him from presenting his case, Politico reports.
Menendez, along with his co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen, was charged in April 2015 with bribery following a lengthy FBI probe. The New Jersey Democrat is alleged to have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper gifts and campaign contributions as bribes in exchange for using his office to help Melgen, a close friend, and a donor.
Menendez and Melgen have denied any wrongdoing, although the latter has already been convicted in a related case for overbilling the Medicare program for millions of dollars. During a hearing on Thursday, defense attorneys repeatedly challenged U.S. District Judge William Walls and said they would file a motion for a mistrial.
Menendez and Melgen’s attorneys, however, are clearly setting up grounds for an appeal if they are convicted at the end of this trial. Arguments over the defense motion will take place this week, Politico adds.
If Menendez is found guilty, he will have to resign from the Senate at some point or face possible expulsion. Democrat Phil Murphy is expected to win New Jersey’s gubernatorial election next week, meaning he could appoint a Democratic senator once in office, which it shows once again how high the stakes are for Menendez in the legal battle, both personally and politically, Politico notes.
“Defendants seek a mistrial because the Court’s evidentiary rulings and comments throughout this trial evince a cumulative abuse of discretion that has deprived defendants of their Fifth and Sixth Amendments rights to a fair trial, to an adequate defense, and to confront the witnesses against them,” lawyers for Menendez and Melgen formally asserted in Sunday’s motion.
The defense lawyers claimed Walls “has erroneously excluded relevant and admissible testimony, documents, and witnesses called by the defense that would provide critical support to defense theories.”