The defense team in Senator Bob Menendez’s trial opened with testimony from family members. The senator’s son Robert Menendez Jr. recalled several trips to the Dominican Republic with his father’s good friend Salomon Melgen. He called them "family gatherings."
Prosecutors accuse Menendez of taking bribes from Melgen, a Florida eye doctor in return for helping him resolve business problems with government officials.
Melgen's wife took the stand and spoke about the brotherly bond the two men have. Attorneys for the defense tried to push back against the accusation that Menendez also gave to the Melgen’s through a cash wedding gift for their daughter. But federal judge William Walls had none of it. He called a thousand-dollar gift from a United States Senator -quote– ‘chump change.’
The defense began its work after judge Walls denied a motion to dismiss the most serious corruption charges. He said he would leave it to the jury to decide whether Menendez had made any official acts in exchange for gifts from Melgen.
Prosecutors took more than a month presenting their case. The defense is expected to take a few weeks to present its side.