Senator Bob Menendez Pleads Not Guilty to Corruption Charges

The New Jersey senator faces federal charges of corruption and bribery

ByABC News
April 2, 2015, 10:37 PM

— -- Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, pleaded not guilty today to 14 counts of corruption, bribery and fraud in New Jersey.

"For nearly 3 years, the Justice Department has pursued allegations based on smears launched by political opponents trying to silence me," Menendez told reporters outside court. "These allegations are false and I am confident they will be proven false and I look forward to doing so in court."

The New Jersey senator, who was indicted on Wednesday for his interactions with Florida eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen, was released on his own recognizance and will have to give up his personal passport.

Menendez may still travel abroad with his passport for work purposes.

Co-defendant Melgen also pleaded not guilty and was released on a $1.5 million bond. Melgen declined to comment.

The next hearing, which will be a status conference, is scheduled for April 22. The trial is tentatively scheduled for July 13.

The charges center on Menendez’s relationship with Melgen, a close Menendez ally and donor to the New Jersey senator, in connection with a bribery scheme in which the senator allegedly accepted gifts from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to benefit the doctor's financial and personal interests.

The indictment includes allegations Menendez accepted close to $1 million worth of gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen between 2006 and 2013 in exchange for advocating on the behalf of the doctor, saying the senator "used the prestige, authority and influence of his status as a United States Senator to promote Melgen’s personal and business interests.”

Some of the gifts cited in the indictment include flights on Melgen’s private jet, vacations to the Dominican Republic, and $40,000 in contributions to his legal defense fund.

The indictment alleges the New Jersey senator used his position and his staff to advocate for Melgen’s interests, including stepping in in a legal dispute involving approximately $8.9 million of Medicare overbilling by Melgen and supporting visa applications for Melgen’s girlfriends.

In a video posted to a YouTube channel called "I Stand With Bob," Menendez denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges with the "unwavering support of so many people across New Jersey."

Late Wednesday night, Menendez announced he will temporarily step down as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.