On their first full day of jury deliberations at the bribery trial of Senator Robert Menendez, a juror asked the judge a basic question: What is a senator?
U.S. District Judge William Walls declined to answer the question, and he refused that juror’s request for a transcript of Monday’s closing argument by Menendez’s attorney, Abbe Lowell. The panel had returned to the Newark, New Jersey, federal courthouse Tuesday after spending about 75 minutes deliberating the day before. Walls told jurors that they should rely on their individual and collective memories to determine how to define a senator.
The juror’s question, odd as it may have seemed, may have related to whether Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, could have been considered a Menendez constituent. Defense attorneys said during the trial that Menendez regarded it as part of his Senate work to look after the interests of people beyond his home state. In his closing argument, Lowell reiterated that Menendez never introduced legislation that benefited Melgen.
The New Jersey Democrat is accused of taking bribes from Melgen in the form of private jet travel, a Paris vacation and campaign contributions in exchange for pushing the doctor’s business interests at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Defense lawyers say they were just favors among good friends.