Lawyers for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez are trying again to have political corruption charges against him thrown out, citing a 2016 Supreme Court decision and recent rulings they say narrow the scope of the federal bribery statute.
In a court filing Tuesday, they point to an appeals court ruling last week that reversed the corruption conviction of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan found sufficient evidence but flawed jury instructions in light of last year’s Supreme Court ruling that reversed the conviction against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and narrowed the definition of what it takes to convict a public official. Prosecutors have vowed to retry Silver, a Democrat.
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was indicted in 2015 on charges he took official action on behalf of a longtime friend who had given him gifts and campaign donations, including flights aboard a luxury jet and a Paris vacation.
The friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, was convicted in April in Florida on multiple counts of Medicare fraud that are separate from the counts he faces in the Menendez indictment.
The indictment alleges Menendez used his official influence to set up meetings with government officials aimed at helping Melgen in the Medicare dispute and with a business interest involving port security in the Dominican Republic.
Menendez has contended that he was seeking to influence future policy instead of advocating on behalf of his friend and that the government is attempting to use the timing of campaign donations to create a quid pro quo between him and Melgen that Menendez claims never existed.
The Supreme Court in March declined to hear his appeal of his corruption indictment, setting the stage for a federal trial in the fall.
In the McDonnell case, the Supreme Court set aside the Republican’s bribery conviction, writing that actions he took that benefited a businessman who gave him luxury gifts might have been distasteful but did constitute illegal conduct.