Final jurors picked for Menendez corruption trial

Menendez Probe
Sen. Robert Menendez’s bribery trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 6.

NEWARK, N.J. — A mail carrier, a utility worker, and a children’s librarian will be among the 12 people deciding the fate of Sen. Bob Menendez when his corruption trial begins next month.

Attorneys finished selecting a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates Wednesday out of a pool that initially numbered several hundred when questionnaires were mailed out two months ago.

The racially mixed jury, divided equally between men and women, will return Sept. 6 for opening statements. The trial is expected to last up to two months.

Menendez and a wealthy campaign donor are charged with a bribery scheme involving gifts and donations in return for political influence. The donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, is on trial with Menendez.

Both defendants attended the two days of jury selection but did not speak to reporters.

Menendez’s defense team has attacked the government’s case, arguing in court papers that the Democratic senator’s meetings and interactions with government officials at the State Department and the Department  of Health and Human Services were legitimate legislative duties.

They also have argued that those meetings and other actions taken by Menendez do not satisfy a narrowed definition of “official acts” under a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that threw out the bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Prosecutors contend Menendez’s actions were singularly meant to benefit the interests of Melgen, after Melgen lavished Menendez with free trips on his private plane and vacations to France and the Dominican Republic.

The indictment alleges Menendez interceded to help Melgen in a dispute over a port security contract Melgen sought in the Dominican Republic; in Melgen’s attempts to get visas for three foreign girlfriends; and in a Medicare dispute with the government involving Melgen’s ophthalmology business.

In a separate trial this year that did not involve Menendez, Melgen was convicted on multiple counts of Medicare fraud and faces maximum penalties totaling decades in prison when he is sentenced this fall.