Judge tosses 4 bribery counts in Sen. Menendez indictment

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NEWARK, N.J. — A federal judge has dismissed four bribery counts against New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and an associate.

Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen each faced two of the counts stemming from two $20,000 donations made by Melgen to a legal defense fund that benefited Menendez.

Menendez and Melgen were named in a 22-count indictment that accused the longtime Democratic congressman of accepting campaign donations and gifts from Melgen in exchange for political influence. They’ve pleaded not guilty.

The judge denied the pair’s claims in motions to dismiss the indictment that prosecutors gave improper instructions and made false statements to the grand jury.

The judge also rejected Menendez’s argument his actions were protected under a clause in the Constitution shielding elected officials from being questioned by prosecutors about legislative work.