Sen. Menendez pleads not guilty to corruption

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez went before a judge and pleaded not guilty less than 24 hours after 14 federal counts of corruption were announced.

"The Justice Department has pursued allegations based on smears launched by political opponents trying to silence me," said Menendez.

Menendez again accused the Justice Department of turning his friendship with Dr. Salomon Melgen into something deceptive. The two are accused of trading money for influence. Dr. Melgen allegedly took the senator away on his plane to lavish resorts and showered him with campaign cash in exchange for political muscle.

In court, Menendez's attorney succeeded in getting him released without bail, although the senator must surrender his passport. Dr. Melgen must pay $1.5 million for bail, surrender his passport, and his plane must stay grounded.

This case will proceed slowly, but the judge wanted to make sure the defendant's right to a speedy trial wasn't abused. Outside the court, Sen. Menendez's attorney Abbe Lowell said other rights have been violated.

"It was fueled by heavy-handed actions of agents pressuring witnesses and then it has more than its fair share of improper leaks to the press. I have asked theJustice Department to investigate this misconduct," said Lowell.

The trial is tentatively set for July 13, but with several hearings scheduled between now and then, expect that date to get pushed back.?

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