Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., deserves the presumption of innocence and every American should afford him this right.
The concept of "innocent until proven guilty" is a pillar of our justice system and for good reason.
The United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights also sees it as a basic right for every person, stating, "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty."
Growing up as a child in 1970s America, I would have thought it unimaginable that someday in America I would have to argue in favor of this.
But it is a sad state in which we find ourselves. The very concepts of democracy, rights, and fairness are under fierce attack.
On Friday, Menendez was charged in a Manhattan federal court on corruption charges, including bribery.
The 39-page indictment against the powerful senator rattled off many allegations, including that he kept stacks of cash and gold bars in his home. (The last I checked it was not illegal to hide cash and physical gold in one's home, as millions of Americans probably do the very same thing.)
Menendez claimed in a statement that federal prosecutors were criminalizing his normal activities related to his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, adding that the indictment was filled with "anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists."
Many were quick to call for Menendez's resignation based on the allegations alone, including New Jersey's Democratic governor, Phil Murphy. (No surprise, the shameless Murphy gets to pick Menendez's successor to the Senate.)
Menendez is vulnerable, as this is not the first time he has been charged by the Department of Justice.
In 2017, after federal prosecutors in New Jersey brought similar bribery charges, Menendez went through a grueling 10-week trial.
Still, the jury ended up deadlocked and failed to convict, with 10 of the 12 jurors believing him innocent of all charges.
Word on the street at the time was that Menendez, though a Democrat, had fallen out of favor with the Obama White House after he vociferously opposed the administration's Iran nuclear deal.
A liberal, the Cuban-American Menendez has long been seen as a something of a hawk on foreign policy matters.
Now federal prosecutors appear to be taking a second bite at the apple, this time bringing charges against him in New York.
Jury shopping? Menendez lives and works in New Jersey and Washington, but perhaps prosecutors believe they can get a better result with a Manhattan jury that is less familiar with the senator.
Full disclosure: I have no friendship or relationship with Menendez. But I do have a relationship with the Constitution.
Based on the senator's voting record, we don't share many things politically.
And for all I know Menendez may be guilty of everything he's charged with and much more.
But I know for sure that all Americans should share the view we are united by our Constitution, which protects all of us through "due process."
Now, Menendez deserves due process with a fair trial. Only a jury can conclude he is guilty.
Today, many Republicans believe our justice system is weaponized to target political adversaries.
The unprecedented four indictments with 91 counts against former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for both the Republican nomination and the presidency, prove the point.
Our justice system is deeply broken.
But Americans can affirm the vision of our Founding Fathers by standing up for Menendez's most basic right: the presumption of innocence.
Christopher Ruddy is CEO of Newsmax Media, Inc., the parent company of NEWSMAX, America's fastest-growing cable news channel. Read more Christopher Ruddy Insider articles — Click Here Now.
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