Washington (CNN)Sen. Robert Menendez and ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen both pleaded not guilty on all criminal charges brought against them in a New Jersey District Court on Thursday.
Menendez pleads not guilty to corruption charges
The New Jersey Democrat and the Florida doctor are facing 13 counts against them — one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, eight counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud — and Menendez has been hit with one additional count of making false statements.
The charges concern multiple incidents where Menendez intervened on Melgen's behalf, including to allegedly help secure visas for three of Melgen's girlfriends, and nearly $1 million in trips, political contributions and other perks.
Menendez was released on his own recognizance while Melgen was released on a $1.5 million bond. The senator was required to surrender his personal passport but can keep his official passport, which allows him to travel overseas for Senate business only.
Melgen, meanwhile, was also required to surrender his passport, and ordered to ground his private jet.
Menendez and his attorney, Abbe David Lowell, both issued brief statements during a press conference after the court appearance. Menendez decried the charges as based on "smears launched by political opponents trying to silence me."
"Now they have laid out their case, we will finally have an opportunity to respond on the record, in court, with the facts. As I said yesterday, these allegations are false, and I am confident they will be proven false and I look forward to doing so in court," he said.
Lowell said prosecutors will now have to "prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a 20-year friendship" between the two was "something else."
"And now, they have to prove that the consistent and proper policies and actions Sen. Menendez took were for a corrupt purpose and not to protect the security of Americans after 2001, and the safe and efficient workings of the health care system," he added.
There was little interaction between the two in the courtroom on Thursday, and initially Menendez seemed to ignore his old friend, who smiled broadly when the senator entered. Menendez mostly stared straight ahead for a while.
But eventually the two were smiling with each other and exchanged some small talk before departing.
While Menendez has stepped down as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he promised Wednesday he's "not going anywhere" and is "angry and ready to fight."
The next court date in the case is on April 22, and the trial is scheduled for July 13.