WASHINGTON – After months of taking a beating from the media over his questionable actions, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is claiming redemption is near.
A Dominican lawyer on Monday released an affidavit from a 23-year-old woman saying she fabricated a story about Menendez paying her for sex. Though the prostitution scandal was barely covered by the mainstream media, it helped trigger several investigations into Menendez's dealing with his biggest donor.
"I've always said that these are false, they're smears," Menendez, D-N.J., told reporters at the Capitol, referring to published reports that he paid prostitutes for sex in the Dominican Republic. "And, so, I look forward to seeing whatever the Dominican courts have that prove what I've said all along."
Vincio Castillo Seman, a Dominican lawyer, told reporters at a news conference Monday in the Dominican Republic that a woman identified as Nexis de los Santos now claims both that she "never went to bed with" Menendez and never actually met him.
Castillo, the son of a Dominican presidential adviser and the brother of a member of the country's Congress, has been entwined in the scandal himself, accused of hosting outings on his yacht in which Menendez used the services of prostitutes.
Like Menendez, he has strongly denied the allegations. Castillo said he would seek a criminal probe into the source of the reports. On Monday, Castillo distributed copies of the woman's sworn statement to reporters. The woman did not attend.
Castillo said De los Santos claims she and a friend were approached by another Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa. The two women recited the accusations on a video that was recorded without their consent, he said.
In an interview with The Miami Herald, Figueroa denied orchestrating the accusations against Menendez. "It was a case that I handled for these women and faithfully represented them for what they said," he said.
Media Confusion Over Prostitutes
Just before Menendez's successful re-election in November, The Daily Caller, a conservative website, published a story that included a video interview with two women who claimed to be prostitutes. The women — whose faces were blurred in the video — said Menendez paid them $100 for sex after agreeing to a fee of $500.
On its website early Tuesday, The Daily Caller said neither of the women in the video identified herself as Nexis de los Santos. The website also said both women consented to the presence of a video webcam.
In the video released last year, the two women also claimed they had sex with Castillo and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor of Dominican descent who is a prominent Democratic campaign contributor and a major supporter of Menendez. De los Santos claims those allegations are also fabricated, according to the Post.
Menendez and Melgen's relationship is currently under investigation by the senate Ethics Committee.
Melgen said in a statement that he is pleased Dominican authorities are investigating the prostitution claims, which he says are false.
Menendez's ties to Melgen have come under close scrutiny after an FBI raid last month at the doctor's West Palm Beach, Fla., offices. Menendez has acknowledged flying on Melgen's private jet to the Dominican Republic twice and was compelled to reimburse $58,000 for the two flights that he had previously failed to report.
A watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has said it had received emails starting in April 2012 alleging that Menendez used the services of prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. The emails came from someone identified as "Peter Williams," though that may be a pseudonym.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.