Judge William Walls upholds the “stream of benefits” theory used by federal prosecutors in accusing Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of accepting bribes from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.
Five days after unexpectedly dangling a legal out for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) by questioning a theory that is key to the prosecution’s federal bribery case against the Democratic lawmaker and his co-defendant, Judge William Walls withdrew it on Monday, reports Politico. Menendez’s attorneys had asked Walls to dismiss all 18 counts. The judge had signaled last week that he was sympathetic to the defense’s argument that would have gutted most of those counts — the “stream of benefits” theory, in which a public official’s actions can be defined as bribery if those actions can be linked to gifts received over a long period. Prosecutors say co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, provided Menendez with private jet flights, hotel stays and about $750,000 in political contributions in exchange for official favors “as opportunities arose.”
The defense argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell invalidated the “stream of benefits” theory. Walls disagreed. After reading dozens of pages of briefs from the prosecution and defense and hearing oral arguments, Walls was firm in siding with the prosecution. He said higher courts in recent cases have continued to rely on the stream of benefits theory. “I see nothing in McDonnell that attacks the stream of benefits theory,” the judge said Monday. “This court concludes that a rational jury could determine that the defendants entered into a quid pro quo agreement.”