After months of leaks and rumors, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) declared his innocence after being indicted on corruption charges by a federal grand jury, as prosecutors charged the veteran Democrat with aiding a political donor in exchange for gifts and campaign contributions.
“I’m outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago,” Menendez said in a statement that was at times interrupted by the applause of his supporters.
“I will not be silenced,” Menendez proclaimed. “I always conducted myself in accordance with the law.”
But the 68 page federal grand jury indictment paints a much different picture.
Also charged was the friend and political supporter of Menendez, Dr. Salomon Melgen, an ophthalmologist from Florida.
“The purpose of the conspiracy was for the defendants to use Menendez’s position as a United States Senator to benefit and enrich themselves through bribery,” the indictment read.
Prosecutors say Menendez accepted numerous gifts from Melgen:
+ Private jet flights to domestic and international destinations
+ A stay at a luxury hotel in Paris
+ Expensive meals
+ Golf outings
+ Tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund
+ Free stays at Melgen’s villa at a resort in the Dominican Republic
The indictment says that Menendez never disclosed “any of the reportable gifts that he received from Melgen” on his official Senate ethics and financial reports.
In exchange, the feds say Menendez used his power as a Senator to help “influence the immigration visa proceedings of Melgen’s girlfriends,” lean on Medicare officials investigating Melgen for Medicare fraud and lobbied federal agencies to preserve a contract Melgen had for cargo screening services in the Dominican Republic.
The indictment details not only multiple private jet flights were provided to Menendez, but Melgen also allegedly bought the Senator a first-class ticket and paid $8,036 to charter a private jet to fly Menendez from Florida back to Washington, D.C. in 2010.
Despite the details, Menendez was defiant about his future.
“They’re dead wrong, and I’m confident they will be proven so,” Menendez said.
“I’m angry and ready to fight.”