US District Court Judge William H. Walls and lawyer Raymond Brown were arguing at the beginning of the trial over Walls' decision on Friday to not put the trial on hold in order for Menendez to vote on bills before the US Senate, Politico reports.
"The court suspects that the trial strategy behind this motion, if granted, would be to impress the jurors with the public importance of the defendant senator and his duties. No other plausible reason comes to mind," Walls said as the trial began Wednesday.
Brown responded to Walls' opinion by saying it was "speculative as to our motives."
"Quite frankly, your honor, that language is extremely prejudicial to the defense and it comes from the court," Brown said. "I think the court has disparaged the defense."
Walls and Brown began talking over one another until the judge said, "Shut up for a moment if you don't mind. I said what I said."
"Now I feel quasi-insulted. You tell me where I have ever speculated to affect the interest of a defendant before a jury. I want you to tell me where I have done something that reasonable jurors and lawyers would consider speculative and proactive," he added.
The senator is charged with using his position to do favors for a Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, who is accused of overbilling Medicare. Menendez is accused of pressing Department of Health and Human service regulators to overlook claims that Melgen overbilled Medicare by almost $9 million in exchange for lavish fights including private jet rides and vacations in Paris and the Caribbean.
If convicted, the senator would have to step down from his position and his successor would be chosen by New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie.