The judge overseeing U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal corruption trial raised serious doubts Wednesday whether a legal theory that prosecutors have relied on to prove their case is still allowed in the wake of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that narrowed the reach of federal bribery laws, raising the prospect that some of the charges against Menendez could be dismissed.
The judge’s remarks came after the government rested its case against Menendez midday Wednesday, having called more than 30 witnesses to testify over the course of 17 trial days. Defense attorneys then argued that the judge should enter a judgment of acquittal because prosecutors had failed to present enough evidence to prove its case.
U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls suggested that language in the high court’s opinion overturning the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell requires prosecutors to show that Menendez, D-Paramus, agreed to do specific official acts on behalf of co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor and longtime friend, in exchange for specific gifts or payments.