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(Bloomberg) -- Prosecutors had barely begun presenting evidence in a federal bribery trial of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez when the judge lit into the government for a presentation he characterized as “tabloid in nature.”
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is on trial in Newark, New Jersey, accused of using his office to advance the business and personal interests of a wealthy friend, Salomon Melgen, in exchange for private jet trips and luxury stays in Paris and the Dominican Republic. Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, is also charged.
Prosecutors began presenting evidence Thursday by calling FBI analyst and walking her through an email exchange involving one of the more salacious aspects of the government’s claims -- that Melgen paid for Menendez to spend three nights in an upscale Paris hotel with a woman.
J.P. Cooney, an attorney with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity section, directed the analyst through a lengthy discussion of messages the senator exchanged with one of Melgen’s assistants and others about booking a hotel room that included “a limestone bath with soaking tub and enclosed rain shower.” He continued with questioning aimed at showing the jury that Menendez was angling for a particularly expensive room when Judge William Walls asked the jury to leave the courtroom.
“I’m not going to permit this to be a tabloid trial,” Walls told Cooney.
Senator’s Bribery Case May Hinge on ‘Official Acts’ Meaning
Later in the day, Walls sent the jury out for a second time during a cross-examination by Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Menendez. “I’m telling both or you I’m going to ride herd on what I consider to be irrelevant departures from your path,” Walls said.
The judge vowed to show little patience for lines of questioning he regarded as irrelevant to the core of the bribery claims.
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