A federal appeals court on Friday refused to drop corruption charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors allege that Menendez received bribes from Salomon Melgen, an ophthalmologist and wealthy Florida donor, in the form of campaign donations and extravagant gifts. In return, Menendez allegedly set up meetings with government officials to arrange favors for Melgen.
Menendez’s lawyers argued that his actions on behalf of a campaign donor were constitutionally protected because he’s a sitting senator. However, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.
Menendez and Melgen both pleaded not guilty last year.
In February, Menedez’s lawyers argued that the meetings he held with government officials were not favors for Melgen, but rather policy discussions that are constitutionally protected.
The court on Friday ruled that “the acts alleged in this case were essentially lobbying on behalf of a particular party and thus, under the specific circumstances, are outside the constitutional safe harbor.”
The Department of Justice alleges that Melgen supplied Menendez with gifts including the use of private jets, a Caribbean villa, a luxury hotel room in Paris, and a Dominican resort.