NEWARK – Jurors in the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez could be forgiven for feeling subjected to a calisthenics regimen this afternoon, with a stream of objections by prosecutors causing them to repeatedly leave and return from the courtroom.
Chief among the issues causing friction was, once again, the defense’s apparent desire to revisit Medicare policies that were “inconsistent, sometimes internally inconsistent,” according to the afternoon’s witness, civil attorney Alan Reider.
“The issue has been discussed at length in front of the jury and me, and any other exposition or attempted exposition as far as I’m concerned is cumulative,” Judge William Walls said.
Reider represented Menendez’s co-defendant Dr. Salomon Melgen, who overbilled Medicare for $8.9 million by stretching the medicine in vials of eye medication, referred to as “multi-dosing.” Menendez’s intervention on Melgen’s behalf with Medicare and Health and Human Services is among the charges in the indictment against the two men.
“We’re not going to get into a determination of the merits of the Medicare claim,” Walls said later in the day.
Though Walls as always directed his decrees at both the prosecution and the defense, defense attorneys have much more to gain by risking Walls’ ire. Reider’s testimony that at least six other practices faced confusion over multi-dosing rules, along with memos and emails showing Menendez briefed on multi-dosing rules, could satisfy the Supreme Court’s ruling that an official act must be more focused than a “broad policy objective” to constitute corruption.
Reider testified the senator was so well-informed, during a discussion about Medicare billing Reider jokingly offered Menendez a job.
“Because he understood the issue so well, he had gone through all the documents and explained to me,” Reider said.
Reider eventually registered as a lobbyist when he realized the hours he put into the Medicare case on Melgen’s behalf required he do so under the law. But he said Menendez was not the only senator he lobbied, and also included then- Sen. Tom Harkin and his staff along with Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, the uncle of supermodel Kate Upton.
As the testimony descended into tedium and the attorneys’ sniping at each other turned meaner, both sides welcomed the end of the trial day. After all the lawyers said they’d run out of questions to ask, Reider cautiously checked whether he could leave.
“Judge, does that mean I’m done?” Reider asked.
“The Acela is waiting,” Walls said.