Demo­crat se­na­tor pleads not guilty to cor­rup­tion

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Prom­i­nent Demo­cratic Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez pleaded not guilty Thurs­day to charges that he ac­cepted nearly US$1 mil­lion in gifts and cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from a long­time friend in ex­change for a stream of po­lit­i­cal fa­vors.

An at­tor­ney for Me­nen­dez en­tered the plea be­fore a fed­eral judge in Ne­wark, one day af­ter he promised to be vin­di­cated and de­clared that he’s “not go­ing any­where.”

The crim­i­nal charges brought cloud the po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of the top Demo­crat — and for­mer chair­man — of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, who has played a lead­ing role in Congress on mat­ters in­volv­ing Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram and U.S. ef­forts to im­prove ties with Cuba.

The in­dict­ment al­leges Me­nen­dez used the power of his Se­nate seat to ben­e­fit Salomon Mel­gen, a wealthy Florida eye doc­tor who pros­e­cu­tors say pro­vided the se­na­tor with luxury va­ca­tions, air­line travel, golf trips and tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in con­tri­bu­tions to a legal de­fense fund.

Mel­gen also en­tered a not guilty plea, and Judge Wil­liam Walls set a ten­ta­tive July 13 trial date. He re­mains free but had to sur­ren­der his pass­port.

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