NEWARK – Locked in a Senate race against Marco Rubio and deprived of Republican backing, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist showed up unannounced at Dr. Salomon Melgen’s house one October night in 2010 and ended up staying the night.
But Crist did not leave the next morning until he wrote a $100 personal check to Melgen covering the takeout dinner he ate and the overnight stay, Melgen’s wife Flor said from the witness stand at Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial.
The defense put Flor Melgen on the stand as the second witness of their case, and sought to use the story of Crist’s visit to contrast with Melgen and Menendez’s close relationship. But prosecution lawyer Monique Abrishami fashioned the homey tale into a sharpened barb and asked the obvious.
“At least this politician knows how to pay your husband back for things?” she asked, clearly referencing the thousands of dollars in hotel stays, private jet travel and Dominican Republic getaways accepted by Menendez.
Following immediate and angry objections from both defense attorneys and groans from the gallery, Judge William Walls immediately recognized the query as a strategy deemed the “throwaway question.”
Walls expressed surprise the youthful Abrishami was experienced in deploying an objectionable question at the tail end of her cross-examination, then told jurors to disregard the entire exchange.
Crist, an independent candidate who had lost the GOP nomination to Rubio, atried the night of October 9, 2010 looking for Dr. Melgen, Flor Melgen testified. Crist stuck around to see the doctor, who didn’t return home until later that night, and ate dinner with Flor Melgen, her daughter and her daughter’s husband.
The next morning, Crist included a note with the reimbursement check.
“Sal – Thank you very much. Great to spend time with you and your wonderful family,” Crist wrote.
Crist lost the 2010 general election to Rubio but is now a Democratic congressman.
The day after causing unintentional hilarity with a literal answer to a question lost in translation, Flor Melgen appeared to contradict her need for an interpreter.
Growing irritated by Abrishami’s questions about the 2010 Senate race, Flor Melgen jumped the gun on her interpreter who was still translating a question about donating to Menendez’s campaign.
“He’s my friend,” Flor Melgen blurted out in English.
Flor Melgen returned to her native Spanish and use of the interpreter for the rest of her time on the witness stand.
When Flor Melgen was done, excused from the stand, and walked back to the family members seated in the gallery, Menendez went over and embraced her.
The defense now has Salomon Melgen’s lobbyist and attorney Alan Reider on the witness stand.
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