First on CNN: An inside look at Sen. Menendez's vacation spot in the Dominican Republic
Posted September 20
Federal prosecutors in Sen. Bob Menendez's bribery trial have painted a posh picture of the New Jersey Democrat living beyond his means on white sand beaches at resorts in the Dominican Republic, all thanks to his friend and co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
CNN obtained access late Tuesday to the exhibits used by the prosecution and defense teams -- including, photographs of private jets on one end of the spectrum, to an old toaster oven on the other.
"You're going to see pictures of all these events that ... the government talked about as some sort of fancy resort," defense attorney Kirk Ogrosky told the jury during opening statements earlier this month. "This is a family home. You see the pictures. This isn't a resort. ... Not some fancy brochure, but a family home."
Prosecutors have spent hours showing jurors in New Jersey glossy hotel brochures, private jets with leather couches, invoices, customs forms, flight records and copied passport entries in an effort to prove that Melgen bribed Menendez with luxury in return for political favors.
Both men deny the charges and instead claim they have been close friends who traveled together for years.
That theme of friendship has been a consistent focal point for the defense team as it seeks to downplay the opulence prosecutors repeatedly emphasize, including by showing some of the more modest accommodations of Melgen's home during open statements.
One of the pictures includes a bedroom the defense says Menendez slept in -- fully decked out with two twin beds, wooden shutters and what appear to be family photographs on the nightstand.
"You can see where they would sit and spend time together," Ogrosky told the jury earlier this month.
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Another defense exhibit of Melgen's home in the Dominican Republic shows a round dining table seating eight under a pergola and a side view of the exterior of the home shows a lap pool enclosed by a garden.
"Don't get me wrong, it is a very nice house, but it is not what the government portrays," Ogrosky told the jury during opening statement.
The humble bedroom stands in sharp contrast to the luxury oceanfront suite at Tortuga Bay where Menendez stayed with Melgen in September 2010, or the suite with a limestone bath and soaking tub at the Park Hyatt in Paris, which Melgen allegedly reserved with American Express points for the senator.
Though the jury saw a series of pictures of Melgen's home during opening statements, they have not been formally admitted into evidence at trial thus far, and the prosecution may ultimately seek to exclude them.