What does it mean to be indicted?
An indictment is the paper that prosecutors write and present in a grand jury where the Senator had no chance to respond or participate. In fact, at all trials, judges tell juries that indictments are nothing more than a way case begins and is not evidence of anything. Judges also will tell juries that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty and soon Senator Menendez will have has his first chance to respond to the charges.
Doesn’t the Senator have to step down if he is indicted?
An indictment is nothing more than a formal charge, done in a one-sided manner by prosecutors. The Senator – like any American – is deemed innocent all the way to a trial verdict. It would defeat that presumption of evidence if people quit their jobs on mere charges. Consequently, the Senator is not obligated to resign and has no intention to do so.
The Senator has a job to do and that is to serve the people of the great State of New Jersey and the nation. He will continue to do that job and looks forward to being exonerated in court.
How did this all start?
Just days before he was re-elected, political opponents of the Senator – using right wing media – began a smear campaign against him, paying people to make wild, false allegations about him. These political opponents even concocted an anonymous tipster who went by the fictitious name Pete Williams, coincidentally the same name as the last U.S. Senator from N.J to be convicted of corruption. This tipster spent several months leading up to election day peddling unsubstantiated smears to the FBI and major media outlets.
Some of the people involved in making those false allegations eventually admitted they were paid to make up lies about Bob Menendez and recanted their stories. Unfortunately, “Pete Williams” and the people who financed and directed this smear campaign have never been identified, located, or brought to justice.
Filing a false report to the FBI is a crime. In this case, that crime led the Justice Department to begin a costly investigation into the Senator, but there is no sign they have ever investigated who committed fraud against the government in the beginning.
Why do you believe DOJ is wrong and will be proven so?
The Justice Department makes lots of mistakes in bringing these cases – the prosecutions of former HUD Secretary Mike Espy and former Senators Ted Stevens and John Edwards are just some examples. This is another mistake. Bob Menendez and Salomon Melgen are close friends and have been so for more than two decades. Under the law, friends are allowed to give gifts to public officials, and that is exactly what has happened in this case. The two have exchanged gifts and have attended each other’s family events for years.
Why do you believe DOJ allowed these charges to move forward?
All we know is that case began with a lie, and has been fueled with illegal leaks to the media since its start. It is unfortunate that instead of pursuing the people who committed a crime in order to smear a United States Senator, the Department has brought these unfounded charges. We look forward to proving them wrong in court.
Describe the process. What’s next?
The next step is for the government to attempt to prove its case in court. It has the very high burden of doing so. It could be some number of months before that begins, and there could be procedural disputes before any trial. But eventually there will be a trial, and we look forward to showing that the Senator’s actions were appropriate at all times.
How long will the case last?
It’s hard to say definitively, and it’s not something that is within our control. The Justice Department will eventually present its case in court and we will present ours.