Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.) flew so often on his wealthy doctor friend's private jet that the pilot stocked the plane with his favorite brand of bottled water, according to testimony from the senator's high-profile corruption trial on Wednesday.
Pilot Robert Nylund testified at Menedez's federal bribery trial in Newark that he flew the senator on Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen's private jet 16 times between 2008 and 2010, the New York Post reported.
Because Menendez was such a frequent flyer on Melgen's plane, Nylund made sure the New Jersey Democrat's favorite beverages were on board the aircraft, the pilot said in court.
In a 2009 email titled "aircraft stock," Nylund requested that the plane be stocked with Evian water and different types of juices that Menendez preferred.
The only other passenger mentioned in the email was Melgen's wife, who liked Cointreau.
"Myself and the other pilot … figured there are items that should be on board if the senator was on the aircraft," Nylund told the jury. "It was common practice … for a special passenger to have the special provisions that they want."
Federal prosecutors accuse Melgen of using his jet, Caribbean resort, and $750,000 in campaign contributions to bribe Menendez to help with his business and personal needs, including an $8.9 million bill from Medicare. Menendez is accused of accepting the bribes and using his office to provide Melgen with a range of favors.
Melgen once spent $8,036.02 for Menendez to charter an 8-passenger private jet when he was the only passenger onboard, the Post noted. The $2,600-per-hour flight from West Palm Beach, Fla. to Washington, D.C. required three legs and was completely covered by the doctor when his own private jet was not available.
Menendez and Melgen both claim that the private planes and other gifts were because of their decades-long friendship and were not part of a bribery scheme.