Sleazy, but not illegal?

Sleazy, but not illegal?

The public has been reminded once again that it's not what you know, but whom you know.

New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez can breathe easy, at least for now. Although he has been revealed as a personally corrupt individual, he avoided conviction on a variety of federal corruption charges.

Jurors — for very understandable reasons — could not reach a verdict in the Menendez case. They were reportedly stuck on a 10-2 vote for not guilty after a lengthy trial and nearly a week of deliberations.

Jurors could not decide whether Menendez intervened with a variety of government agencies and secured special benefits on behalf of Dr. Salomon Melgen because he and Dr. Melgen were longtime friends or because Dr. Melgen for years plied Sen. Menendez with lavish gifts and campaign contributions.

In other words, did Menendez act as a friend, as the defense argued, or because the power of his office was essentially on retainer to Dr. Melgen.

One juror who voted to acquit said that "I didn't see anything bad (Menendez) did."

The juror probably misspoke, meaning that he didn't see that Menendez did anything that could be categorized as illegal under the law. But Sen. Menendez's nonstop favor-seeking on Dr. Melgen's behalf most certainly was improper, particularly his effort to assist Dr. Melgen's efforts to double-bill the government in connection with $8.9 million in disputed medical reimbursement claims.

After all, if Sen. Menendez's efforts to help Dr. Melgen take financial advantage of the government weren't out of bounds, why did a federal jury in Florida convict the good doctor, a retinal specialist, of 67 charges in connection with a massive scheme that robbed Medicare out of as much as $105 million?

What Sen. Menendez calls constituent service on Dr. Melgen's behalf was certainly much more than that — an odious impropriety motivated by friendship and mutual self-interest, at best, even if not a corrupt quid pro quo relationship.

Sen. Menendez was, naturally, elated by the jury's failure to reach a guilty verdict, so excited in fact that he promised retaliation against those he said had schemed against him.

"For those who were digging my political grave so they could jump into my (Senate) seat, I know who you are, and I don't forget it," he said.

With luck, the voters of New Jersey won't forget what was revealed of Sen. Menendez's character during this trial or, possibly, the next one.

Federal prosecutors may choose to retry the case, although winning a conviction would appear to be a long shot.

Prosecutors claim their efforts were hindered by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell that held prosecutors must establish a quid pro quo relationship to prove criminal intent when individuals give cash or gift to politicians who engage in favor-seeking for the donors.

In the McDonnell case, he and his wife accepted gifts from a wealthy individual who was seeking the state of Virginia's help in marketing a medical product the businessman was touting. But while McDonnell accepted the gifts — sleazy behavior — the governor took no official action that boosted the businessman's interest.

In the Menendez case, the senator did not deny any of the actions attributed to him by prosecutors. But he insisted he did what he did because he and Dr. Melgen were longtime friends, and that Dr. Melgen's gifts to him did not prompt him to act on Dr. Melgen's behalf.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of those two positions. Whatever happened, jurors were not convinced, as they must be, beyond a reasonable doubt.

A good result for Sen. Menendez, even if what was revealed about the relationship between public officials and their wealthy friends shows government — once again — at its worst.

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Mr Dreamy wrote on November 20, 2017 at 8:11 am

Sleazy but not criminal, just like Dey's buddy Judge Steigmann. Steigmann has been accused of influence peddling and theft from the State. Steigmann is the first Judge, ever, to be accused of theft from the State. Isn't that newsworthy? Is it sleazy to protect your friends by not reporting the news, not reporting the truth, as ugly as it is?