Opening Arguments Begin in Sen. Menendez’s Criminal Trial

Mr. Menendez, who has been in political office since 1974, is facing 16 charges including conspiracy and bribery.

The corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is underway, as the jury was seated and opening arguments began on May 15 in a case that could alter the senator’s political future.

Mr. Menendez, who has been in political office since 1974, is facing 18 charges including conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice. He is standing trial with two other defendants, New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes.

The senator’s wife, Nadine Menendez, has also been charged but will be tried separately in a case that could begin in July due to her health issues.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said the 70-year-old New Jersey politician delivered favors for three New Jersey businessmen beginning in 2018, when he and Ms. Menendez had begun dating.

Ms. Pomerantz said the senator was careful not to send too many written communications involving the bribery scheme.

“He was careful not to send too many texts,” she said. “He used Nadine as his go-between to deliver messages to and from the people paying bribes.”

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When his lawyer, Avi Weitzman, delivered his opening statement, he called Mr. Menendez “an American patriot” and the prosecutors “dead wrong.”

He said Mr. Menendez “took no bribes and did not accept any cash, or gold, or a car,” adding that “he was never and is not a foreign agent of the government of Egypt. He did not violate the law, period.”

Ms. Pomerantz, though, said the businessmen showered Mr. Menendez and his wife with gifts to ensure Mr. Menendez would help them, and that evidence will show that the fingerprints and DNA of one of his co-defendants was on cash found in the senator’s home.

Alleged Connection to Egypt

A fourth co-defendant, New Jersey business developer Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, attempt and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice, attempted tax evasion, and obstructing justice by making false and misleading statements to federal investigators.

He has agreed to testify against his co-defendants, who have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mr. Menendez, 70, was initially indicted in September 2023, charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion. He has faced two subsequent indictments.

Mr. Menendez’s initial indictment alleges that the senator and his wife took bribes from Mr. Daibes, Mr. Hana, and Mr. Uribe in exchange for favorable treatment surrounding the government of Egypt, whose human rights record has come under fire. The gifts included gold bars, home mortgage payments, and a fancy car, it says.

Mr. Menendez also allegedly pressured the New Jersey attorney general’s office in relation to a prosecution against Mr. Uribe, who pleaded guilty in 2011 to a charge of third-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to three years probation.

Bribery Allegations

The first superseding indictment alleged that Mr. Menendez, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until his initial indictment in September, “used his influence and power” and violated his duty in order to introduce Mr. Daibes to a potential Qatari investor. The indictment does not make clear how Qatar benefited from the deal.

Mr. Menendez received tickets to the 2022 Formula One Grand Prix and other gifts from Qatar, according to the indictment.

Additionally, Mr. Menendez allegedly promised to ask President Donald Trump to appoint a U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey to interfere in a prosecution of Mr. Daibes on fraud and other financial-related charges. He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2018 but withdrew the plea, and his trial has been postponed.

The most recent indictment alleged that Mr. Menendez and his wife caused their then-attorneys to provide false representations about the payments to the prosecution, allegedly telling them that their client had been unaware of the money given by Mr. Hana for the mortgage on Ms. Menendez’s New Jersey home and the money paid by Mr. Uribe toward her Mercedes-Benz until 2022.

Mr. Menendez, who has been in Congress since 1993 and the Senate since 2006, has resisted calls to resign and has said he will “continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades” and that people “are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat.”

Mr. Menendez has not ruled out a reelection bid this year as an independent, as the deadline to file as a Democrat has passed.

He faced bribery charges in 2015, but the 2017 trial ended in a hung jury and federal prosecutors declined to retry the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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