After weeks of speculation, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on a multitude of corruption charges on April 1, leaving the Hudson County mainstay embroiled in the political fight of his life.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Menendez, whose first elected position was as a trustee of the Union City Board of Education at the age of 20, boasts one of the most workmanlike rises to prominence in New Jersey history.
Serving as the Union City mayor, assemblyman, state senator and congressman before finally appointed as a U.S. Senator in December 2005, the Saint Peter’s University alumnus built up a reputation as a champion of the common man.
Of course, that didn’t halt the occasional tale of a ruthless Menendez ruling Hudson County with an iron fist, some of which weren’t hard to believe given that he was instrumental in sending his former boss and mentor William “Bill” Musto to jail – one of the most notorious (and corrupt) HudCo pols of all time.
Nevertheless, the myth and legend of Menendez continued to grow to historic proportions, to the point where he was on the hypothetical short list of U.S. Secretary of State choices should Hilary Clinton find her way into the White House in 2016.
However, on April Fool’s Day of this year, Menendez got dealt a blow he could initially hope was just a bad joke: a 14-count federal indictment that alleges he used his office to repeatedly benefit his longtime friend and political donor Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.
The scrappy Menendez was quick to counterpunch, stating on the evening he was indicted that he was “outraged” by the charges, further stating that “I will be vindicated and they will be exposed.”
Also boldly stating the indictment stems from “political opponents trying to silence me,” Menendez supporters have written the charges off as retaliation by the Barack Obama administration for the senator denouncing restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and opposing the president’s Iran nuclear deal.
Menendez pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. District federal court in Newark.
After a brief dispute with Judge William Walls over whether the trial should be held in Washington D.C. or New Jersey, the discovery process has gotten interesting with Menendez’s legal team (led by Abbe Lowell, whom many consider a demigod among criminal defense attorneys) accusing an FBI agent of giving false testimony.
While both sides will inevitably drop some heavy claims over the next several months (years?), Menendez scored his victory in the case in September when Walls threw out four of the bribery claims against him (h/t New York Times).
Also worth mentioning is that Menendez is still proceeding forward with business as usual in recent memory.
He hosted his 6th annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at his native Union City High School in September, pouncing on the opportunity to torch Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, and marching through North Hudson in the New Jersey Hispanic Parade in October.
This entry comes in at Number 5 since relatively little else has happened since the indictment and the trial, if we ever get that far, is still a long ways off.
Hoping for a trial and conviction on all counts. Hate the SOB!
He was always there for his constituents and did a lot of good for Hudson County and beyond . Loyalty is # 1 you can’t buy it . Bob is still # 1 in our minds . I wish him the best.
They never indict the real criminal
George E Norcross
It should be noted that though Menendez was not charged with pedophile sex crimes, the Justice Department filed motions with the judge showing that all of the allegations of his underage sex with children had been corroborated! The Feds probably did not charge Menendez because proving it with a minor whose domicile is a foreign country is a tough case. But don’t take my word for it, read the motions for yourself. Countless witnesses, travel logs, receipts etc all show Menendez was engaging in sexual activities with minors.
@Wny Dude – You say Menedez takes care of his constituents but I beg to differ. How is someone taking bribes from a physician engaging in Medicare fraud helping his constituents? Is the reason you sent him to Washington so he could line his pocket with bribes? Remember that he went and tried to stop criminal charges against a doctor he knew who was charged with defrauding Medicare of over $20 million dollars in one year. And it should be noted that he only did this after he received another $1 million donation. They call this quid pro quo in law.
Okay so his office will give you a quick hand with a small matter. Big deal! How about all the votes he’s taken that cost his constituents tens of millions of dollars so that he can get some money for himself and his Super Pac? Next time you complain about the high cost of prescription drugs you can thank Menendez. He single handily prevented foreign pharmacies from Canada from selling the same medicine that NJ residents pay sky high prices for. All the while he kept taking all those big fat check donations from big pharma companies to keep medicine prices sky high! Truth is that Menendez doesn’t help his constituents except with the small stuff. If you want him to really go to bat on your behalf you have to line his pockets with greenbacks.
In short, Menendez is just a corrupt politician who accepts bribes and has no qualms about having sex with under age children.
J Kay , in this great country . The U.S. Of America we’re innocent until proven guilty by a jury of our peers . You have him convicted already before he goes to trial. I have faith in Menendez and I have faith in the justice system so should you . If he gets convicted of any wrong doing he will pay the price but until then he is our elected representatives and deserves to be treated fairly . Have a Happy New Year.