NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Attorneys in the bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez are arguing over what legal instructions the jury will hear from the judge before deliberating.

They gathered Tuesday with the jury not present.

The trial is in its ninth week, and jurors could hear closing arguments from both sides on Wednesday or Thursday. But before that happens, they will be instructed by the judge on the specifics of the law.

The jury instructions are considered a particularly important phase of the trial because the definition of official bribery was altered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that overturned the conviction of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The charge provides a road map to help a jury reach a verdict, so the specific wording is critical, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

Menendez is charged with accepting free flights on a private jet and other gifts from  Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in exchange for political influence. Much of the two men’s defense centers around their longtime friendship, which attorneys say explains the gifts.

The government claims Menendez took official acts for personal gain while the defense maintains the two men are friends and there was nothing illegal.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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