A defense attorney claimed in court Thursday that the federal government's bribery case against Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.) and a Florida doctor is an "attack" on Hispanic Americans.
The attorney, Kirk Ogrosky, is representing Menendez's co-defendant, ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, and characterized the lawsuit as an attack on the "fellowship" of Hispanic Americans, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Menendez and Melgen are "part of a fellowship of Hispanic Americans," Ogrosky said in his opening statement, which includes entrepreneurs, businessmen, doctors, and politicians who want to "pay it forward, help young Hispanic Americans improve their lives" and "play a larger role in American society."
Ogrosky said that the government's case therefore constitutes an "attack on that whole group."
Prosecutors allege that Menendez took bribes from Melgen, a wealthy donor, for years, including many trips on Melgen's private jet, expensive vacations, and high-end gifts. In return for these unreported payoffs, prosecutors say, Menendez helped Melgen's foreign girlfriends obtain visas and effected high-level changes in Medicare reimbursement and other policies for Melgen's financial gain.
Menendez faces charges of bribery, honest services fraud, and conspiracy, among others, all of which he denies. The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.