This material belongs to: New York Post.
A federal judge Tuesday began discussions over how a jury will be charged to deliberate the fate of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy pal from whom he’s accused of taking bribes by bringing up the 2016 Supreme Court decision that has changed the definition of “official corruption.”
“We will not leave today until I’m satisfied that our definition of an official act comports with McDonnell,” Newark Federal Judge William Walls said as the lawyers, prosecutors and Walls negotiated what instructions the jury should hear before closing arguments and deliberations begin.
The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell last year, narrowing the legal definition of corruption finding that a person must take an “official action” — such as promoting legislation — and that simply taking a meeting is insufficient to convict an elected officials of bribery.
The McDonnell case — which was the basis for overturning the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam — has loomed heavily over Walls, with the judge making multiple references to it throughout the weeks-long trial.
“With regard to the charge, we all know the effect that the McDonnell case has had on the trial court. I’m one of the experimental lambs as far as trying a case,” Walls said Tuesday, referencing the fact that he may be one of the first judges to preside over a corruption trial that commenced after the SCOTUS ruling.
Menendez is on trial with his doctor friend Salomon Melgen who allegedly bribed the Garden State Democrat with campaign donations and all-expense-paid trips including flights on his private jet, in exchange for official favors from the senator to help Melgen in his business endeavors and disputes with Medicare.
Their attorneys’ argue that the gifts and favors arose from Melgen and Menendez’s 20-year friendship, not from a corrupt agreement.
The parties spent the entire day Tuesday arguing the legal points of what should and shouldn’t be included in the jury instruction which is expected to be read to jurors Wednesday.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday and the jury could have the case by the end of the week.