Juror asks judge in Menendez corruption trial: What is a senator?

One of the jurors in Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s corruption trial paused the second day of deliberations to ask the judge a simple question: Just what is a “senator,” anyway?

The juror also asked U.S. District Judge William Walls for a transcript of the closing argument delivered by Menendez’s attorney.

Walls denied both requests and told the jurors to rely on their “individual and collective memories” of both the closing argument and the definition of a senator, Bloomberg reported.

In his closing arguments in the case, Menendez’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, argued that Menendez had not taken bribes from wealthy Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.

While Lowell conceded that Menendez and Melgen did favors for one another as friends, he insisted that Menendez never advanced legislation or improperly took official acts for Melgen’s benefit.

Prosecutors charge that Melgen, who is not one of Menendez’s constituents, provided Menendez with luxury jet travel, extravagant vacations, and more than $750,000 in campaign funding in exchange for helping the eye doctor’s business through various official acts.

In August 2009, for example, prosecutors charged that Menendez emailed his chief of staff to see “who has the best juice” at the Department of Health to help Melgen out of an $8.9 million Medicare bill.

And prosecutors alleged that Menendez pressured officials to authorize visas for Melgen’s four girlfriends.

The government’s case has been complicated by the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the bribery trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. In that case, the Supreme Court significantly narrowed the kind of “official acts” that can form the basis of a bribery conviction.