By Cleve Bryan
NEWARK, N.J. (CBS) -- During an arraignment in US District Court, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty to 14 federal corruption charges.
The US Justice Department alleges that Menendez received nearly a million dollars worth of gifts and contributions in exchange for helping Florida-base eye doctor Salomon Melgen with a stream of political favors.
After Thursday's first appearance in court Menendez and his attorney Abbe Lowell went on offense.
"For nearly 3 years the Justice Department has pursued allegations based on smears launched by political opponents," said Menendez, then continued, "we will finally have an opportunity to respond on the record, in court with the facts."
Lowell says federal prosecutors are mis-characterizing actions Menendez took with his long-time friend Melgen.
"Prosecutors at the Justice Department often get it wrong, these charges are the latest mistakes," said Lowell.
The trial is scheduled to begin in mid-July and Menendez has been ordered not to take any personal trips out of the U-S.
Melgen who also pleaded not guilty on Thursday had bond set at $1.5M as well his passport removed and his personal plane grounded.
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