Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial is an unfair attack on Hispanic Americans, the lawyer for Menendez’s co-defendant argued on the second day of the trial.
Prosecutors say Menendez sold political favors to a friend, Dr. Salamon Melgen, in exchange for more than half a million dollars worth of bribes, including helping Melgen navigate government issues while Melgen committed Medicare fraud. Menendez is facing a dozen corruption-related charges. (RELATED: MSNBC Host: Case Against Menendez ‘Doesn’t Look Close, It Looks Overwhelming’)
Melgen’s attorney, Kirk Ogrosky, attempted to frame the trial in racial terms while addressing the jury on Thursday, Politico reported.
“Sal and Bob were part of a fellowship of Hispanic Americans. Entrepreneurs, businessmen, doctors, politicians. You’ll hear this at trial: their idea was to pay it forward, help young Hispanic Americans improve their lives, lift up their community, play a larger role in their community,” Ogrosky said. “This case isn’t only an attack on those two men. It’s an attack on that whole group.”
Prosecutors say Menendez repeatedly lobbied then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and acting Medicare administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Melgen’s behalf in Medicare disputes. Prosecutors say Melgen defrauded the government of more than $105 million. (RELATED: Networks Ignore First Day Of Sen. Menendez Trial)
Other prominent Democrats besides Menendez have seen their names come up in relation to the corruption scandal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reportedly lobbied the Obama administration on behalf of Melgen, after Menendez asked Reid to intercede for his friend and donor.