Opening statements set to begin in Sen. Bob Menendez’s criminal trial on bribery charges


After a jury was chosen in the federal bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, opening statements were poised to begin Wednesday afternoon as prosecutors seek to convince a jury that the longtime powerful Democrat was willing to sell his influence to benefit three businessmen in return for cash, gold bars and a luxury car.

The three-term New Jersey senator has insisted since his fall arrest that he is not guilty of charges that he used his influence to aid three New Jersey businessmen, including by providing favors to the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Prosecutors say the men showered Menendez and his wife with gifts to ensure Menendez would help them.

Judge Sidney Stein gave a jury that had been chosen by early afternoon initial instructions on the law before a lunch break. The 12 jurors and six alternates were chosen over three days. 

Stein said the first witness would take the stand Wednesday if there is time, and that it will take a couple of weeks for the government to present all of their witnesses. During jury selection on Tuesday, Stein listed off dozens of potential witnesses in the case, including former and current lawmakers and U.S. officials. 

The judge ruled that a psychiatrist who evaluated Menendez will not be allowed to testify at his corruption trial about “two significant traumatic events” in his life that his lawyers say explain the hundreds of thousands in cash investigators found in his home. He will allow an accountant to testify about the senator’s cash flow. 

Menendez, 70, is on trial in Manhattan federal court with two of the businessmen. A third has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants. Menendez’s wife is scheduled to be tried in July due to health issues. 

What’s to come in Senator Menendez’s bribery trial


For the senator, the trial represents the second time he has been criminally charged in a federal court in the last decade.

In 2017, a federal jury deadlocked on corruption charges brought in New Jersey, and prosecutors did not seek to retry him. Those charges were unrelated to the current prosecution of Menendez, who held the powerful post of chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before he was forced from the job after the new charges were revealed last fall.

Since the initial indictment in September, prosecutors have expanded on the charges and allegations in three superseding indictments, bringing the total number of felony charges against Menendez to 16. 

Menendez is on trial with Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer, and businessman Wael Hana. They have pleaded not guilty.

An indictment alleges Daibes delivered gold bars and cash to Menendez and his wife to get the senator to help him secure a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund by acting in ways favorable to Qatar’s government.

The indictment also said Menendez did things benefitting Egyptian officials in exchange for bribes from Hana as the businessman secured a lucrative deal with the Egyptian government to certify that imported meat met Islamic dietary requirements.

Menendez has said he will not be seeking reelection on the Democratic ticket this fall, although he has not ruled out running as an independent.



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