Jury selection underway in Menendez trial

Jury selection underway in Menendez trial

The final stage of jury selection has begun for the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates could be selected by the end of the week.

Jury selection was briefly interrupted by a closed court proceeding, though U.S. District Judge William Walls did not say why the proceeding was closed. 

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The New Jersey Democrat is accused of accepting lavish gifts, political donations, expensive meals and vacations from Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, in exchange for using his elected office to lobby on behalf of Melgen's business and personal interests.

Menendez pleaded not guilty to an updated indictment on Tuesday, according to the AP.

Melgen, who was charged alongside Menendez in 2015, was convicted in federal court earlier this year on separate Medicare fraud charges. 

The eye doctor's sentencing on the healthcare fraud charges was postponed earlier this month until after he and Menendez are tried on the corruption and bribery charges in September.

Lawyers representing the two men argue that the gifts and donations were not in exchange for political favors, but rather stemmed from a long-standing friendship.

Defense attorneys have also argued that many of the activities performed were legitimate legislative duties for Menendez.