Democrat senator pleads not guilty to corruption
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.