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Judge declines to dismiss charges against Sen. Bob Menendez in bribery case

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(NEW YORK) — A federal judge in New York declined to dismiss bribery charges against Sen. Bob Menendez, ruling his conduct is not protected by the nature of his job as a United States senator or as then-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“[T}he Court finds that none of the allegations at issue concerning the U.S. Attorney Scheme or the Egyptian Aid Scheme are protected by the Speech or Debate Clause,” Judge Sidney Stein wrote Thursday.

Menendez sought to dismiss charges including conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, and conspiracy for a public official to act as a foreign agent.

The judge said none of those charges should be dismissed based on the U.S. Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause protections for members of Congress and no allegations should be purged.

Prosecutors have accused Menendez, 69, of conspiring with his wife, Nadine Menendez, and businessman Wael Hana to have the senator act as an agent of Egypt. In exchange for bribe payments, Menendez was meant to help lift a block on U.S. military aid to Egypt, the indictment says. The senator has also been accused of accepting bribes in exchange for doing favors for the government of Qatar.

Another businessman who had been charged in the case, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty earlier this month and agreed to cooperate. Uribe said he supplied Nadine Menendez with a luxury convertible in exchange for favors, prosecutors said.

Sen. Menendez is the first sitting member of Congress to be charged with conspiracy by a public official to act as a foreign agent.

The senator and his wife face additional charges of obstruction that were not part of Thursday’s order. The couple and other defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges contained in a total of four indictments.

They are scheduled to stand trial in May.

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