After deliberating for almost seven hours, a juror in Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal corruption trial asked the judge Tuesday afternoon to provide a copy of the closing arguments where a defense lawyer discussed the role of a United States senator.
The New Jersey Democrat is accused of pressuring various federal officials to help his friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, resolve business disputes in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations and other perks.
Menendez and Melgen deny any wrongdoing and the senator’s defense attorney Abbe Lowell told jurors in closing arguments Monday that Menendez never pushed through any legislation in the Senate on his friend’s behalf – a suggestion to counter prosecutors’ claims that he abused the power of his office or took an “official act” that might put him on the hook under federal bribery law.
“All the evidence confirmed that Senator Menendez asserted his ability but never his power to act as a legislator,” Lowell argued.
“He could have submitted a piece of legislation to prevent the donation of equipment that was never going to be used and was going to be misused by a corrupt government. He could do all of that. But all of the people who took the stand said he did not ever do that,” he added.
Judge William Walls declined to provide jurors with a copy of Lowell’s closing, instead telling them to rely on their “individual and collective memories” of what was said, and directed them to re-read the portion of the judge’s written instructions which explain that closing arguments are not evidence.
Jury deliberations will continue Wednesday morning.