Sen. Menendez goes on trial Monday - may blame wife for alleged bribes

 May 13, 2024

On Monday, in Manhattan, the trial of indicted Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) will start, and officials spanning from Hudson County, New Jersey to Washington will be closely watching for the outcome.

In a multifaceted case that was brought against Menendez and his wife Nadine last September, they are accused of performing favors for three New Jersey businessmen, two foreign governments, and Menendez himself in return for gold bars, piles of cash, and a Mercedes-Benz that were discovered at their residence, as Gothamist reported.

On 17 charges of bribery, conspiracy, corruption, wire fraud, functioning as a foreign agent without registering with the U.S. Justice Department, and obstruction of justice, the senator is being tried. His wife is also confronted with numerous identical charges.

Nadine's Case

Nadine Menendez requested that the couple's cases be divided into two distinct trials, and Judge Sidney Stein granted her request on account of present health concerns.

Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, two businessmen who are also accused in the conspiracy, will be tried alongside the senator. Jury selection commenced on Monday. Nadine Menendez will be tried following the conclusion of that trial.

Jose Uribe, the third businessman involved in the case, entered a guilty plea in March on charges including bribery, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion. Uribe is scheduled to offer testimony in the proceeding.

Legal analysts and court documents indicate that the senator might attempt to place the blame on Nadine Menendez.

Analyst's Take

“I do anticipate that Senator Menendez will blame his wife for misleading him or failing to fill him in on many of the details of this scheme,” said Jessica Roth, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

“And I think the fact that she's now been severed and will have her own separate trial at a later date really facilitates that defense.”

The strategy was initially disclosed in mid-April in response to media pressure to unseal sealed case documents.

Nadine Menendez, according to the prosecution, was the merchant involved in their scheme's primary point of contact.

Alleged Crimes

They assert that in 2018, she introduced Hana, a New Jersey-based Egyptian-born industrialist, to the senator, who at the time was her new romantic partner.

According to the indictment, Hana subsequently facilitated Bob Menendez's meeting with Egyptian military and intelligence officials who were seeking to alleviate a restriction imposed by the United States on military exports to Egypt on account of human rights issues.

The complaint alleges that in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the senator supported the weapon transactions.

He allegedly assisted Hana in establishing a monopoly on halal meat certification for all Egyptian exports, according to the prosecution. Prosecutors assert that funds obtained through the monopoly were utilized to bribe the Menendezes.

Evidence Against the Menendez's

Prosecutors have cited extensive text messages between the couple as evidence; however, Cardozo's Roth stated that such exchanges could impede the senator's defense team's efforts to discredit Nadine Menendez.

“There are numerous references in the indictment to encrypted messages among the alleged co-conspirators," Roth said.

"So we have all these text messages and other forms of messages that I assume the prosecutors are intending to introduce into evidence, which look very incriminating on their face. And the fact that many of them were encrypted suggests that there was some sense of culpability on the part of the participants that they were trying to keep these messages hidden.”

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