© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bob Menendez, United States Senator speaks during the First Stand Rally in Newark
By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A judge has decided to delay ruling on whether federal corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey should be dismissed, clearing the way for the Democrat’s trial to begin as scheduled on Sept. 6.
In an order dated Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Walls in Newark, New Jersey said he would rule after prosecutors present their case to a jury.
Menendez had argued last month that his bribery and fraud charges should be dismissed because they were not criminal, under a June 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
That decision narrowed the definition of “official acts,” and said routine political activities such as arranging meetings and reaching out to public officials did not qualify.
Walls wrote that whether Menendez’s alleged wrongful activities as “official acts” was a “factual determination” to be made after prosecutors presented their evidence at trial.
“The allegations of the superseding indictment are not legally deficient to prevent their going to a jury,” he added.
Lawyers for Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors accused Menendez of accepting campaign donations and gifts, including a stay at a Caribbean villa and private jet flights, from Melgen in exchange for using his office to lobby for the doctor.
Both defendants have pleaded not guilty. Menendez is expected to seek a third six-year term in 2018.
Several politicians have sought to have their corruption cases thrown out since the McDonnell decision.
Last month, a federal appeals court in New York cited the decision in overturning the corruption conviction of former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Prosecutors plan to retry him.
The case is U.S. v. Menendez et al, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, No. 15-cr-00155.