Raven SantanaAug 29, 2017, 7:53 pmAug 31, 2017, 8:21 am

Judge rejects Sen. Menendez’s request to change date of corruption trial

The Senator wanted to schedule around key Senate votes in Washington


U.S. District Judge William Walls rejected Menendez's requests on Tuesday to adjust the date of his federal corruption trial in Newark so he can travel to Washington to vote on major bills.

With just a little more than a week away from the start of his trial, Menendez filed another request for a rescheduling of his trial. This time saying that his "constitutional obligations" to his constituents justified altering the trial schedule so he could vote on issues including raising the debt ceiling to avoid a government shutdown.

Professor Matthew Hale, an associate professor of political science & public affairs at Seton Hall, says Senator Menendez has no "constitutional obligations," only a personal decision to make.

“There’s no constitutional right to choose not to come to your trial. You have a right to face your accuser, but he has counsel for that. So the judge can say no and Senator Menendez has a decision to make,” Professor Hale said.

Despite Judge Walls saying the Democrat was free to be absent during testimony, Professor Hale says there are consequences no matter what Menendez chooses.

“…Part of the difficulty is that it is possible that the Republican leadership could call a vote quickly if he decides to stay in court. I think the Republicans will take as much advantage of every vote that they can in the senate without Bob Menendez because he's a solid good Democratic vote,” Hale said.

Professor Hale says he does not believe this was a stalling tactic for Senator Menendez and instead an effort to send a strong message to the jury as he believes Republicans will take advantage of his absence in Washington.

“I also think it’s an argument, a strong argument to make to the jury…that perhaps we have to save health care in America and I need to be there to do that,” Hale said.

There is no word on whether the judge will rule on Senator Menendez's request.

If Menendez is found guilty and removed from the Senate before January, Governor Chris Christie will appoint his replacement before his term is up on January 16.

Menendez's trial is set to begin on Sept. 6.

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