Saturday, July 20, 2024

Prosecution in Menendez trial ends by calling defense ‘gross’

NEW YORK – When the FBI raided his home, Sen. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Bob Menendez’s explanations defied logic, particularly the veteran lawmaker’s “gross” assertion. His wife kept the bedroom door locked, so his bedroom cupboard contained piles of cash and other treasures.

The government’s closing argument, as Menendez’s two-month corruption trial draws to a close, reminded jurors of everything they saw and heard in the testimony: the incriminating text messages, the origin of the money and the value of the brick-sized ingots, as well as Menendez’s worth. An effort to pick a New Jersey federal prosecutor he hoped would derail a friend’s 2018 indictment for bank fraud.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni scoffed at the idea that Menendez’s wife, Nadine, was secretly stashing the thousands of dollars he collected without her knowledge, saying, “She obviously has access to a closet in her own bedroom.”

“Throughout this trial, you’ve heard that everyone is to blame except for Menendez,” Montelioni said in his five-hour closing argument.

Menendez, 70, faces 16 criminal charges including bribery, extortion and acting as a foreign agent. The government alleges that he benefited from a wide-ranging conspiracy in which he provided favors and influence in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts. The case tarnished his long political career; A sentence is substantial imprisonment and he may be barred from holding public office again.

The New Jersey Democrat was previously indicted on unrelated federal corruption charges in 2017, which was never retried after the jury deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared.

A search warrant executed at Menendez’s Englewood Cliffs, NJ home in June 2022 yielded evidence used against him and two co-defendants in this trial. Agents found more than $480,000 in cash, some of it in envelopes inside lawmakers’ jackets. At the time, he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a role in which he had contacts with foreign governments that prosecutors say he began exploiting. (He was removed as chairman after being charged.)

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“Friends don’t give friends envelopes stuffed with $10,000 in cash out of friendship. “Friends don’t give the same friends $60,000 worth of kilograms of gold bars out of the goodness of their hearts,” Montelioni said Tuesday.

Gifts were given before and after the October 2020 wedding, and the Menendez’s reportedly paid a Mercedes-Benz convertible and $23,000 to pay off the mortgage. Nadine Menendez was charged in the conspiracy but will stand trial at a later date. She is undergoing treatment for breast cancer during her husband’s trial.

Wael “Will” Hana, an Egyptian native living in New Jersey, is a co-defendant who is said to have been in contact between the couple and Egyptian authorities. Hana, a longtime friend of Nadine Menendez, is accused of paying her husband no- or low-show work through a halal meat certification company in exchange for her husband’s meetings and advancing policy priorities at the behest of the Egyptian military and intelligence. Leaders.

The senator was charged with appointing Philip Selinger as US attorney in New Jersey, hoping that he would eventually get the attorney to kill the prosecution of real estate developer Fred Teibs. “Menendez tried to block the investigation, just like he paid,” Monteleoni said.

That plan didn’t materialize, jurors heard, because Menendez couldn’t control Selinger, and the prosecutor was dropped from the case as soon as he was sworn in.

Deybez is the final co-defendant in the current trial, and prosecutors allege Menendez made positive statements at his behest and promised to present a resolution praising Qatar for its efforts to evacuate people from Afghanistan after the U.S. military. Withdrawal. At the time, prosecutors said, Taibes sought a multimillion-dollar investment from a member of Qatar’s royal family.

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All three pleaded not guilty. Businessman Jose Uribe, accused of bribing the senator, pleaded guilty in March and testified for the government. He told jurors that Menendez asked him for details of a criminal case in which Uribe wanted to “stop and kill” the senator after he began financing lavish makeovers for the lawmaker’s then-girlfriend.

Montelioni said a mountain of compelling evidence overshadows the story presented by the defense. He referred to Menendez as a once-trusted elected official who became so entrenched in his corruption that he agreed to help Egypt and Qatar in exchange for gifts and money.

“What your common sense tells you is that the money and gold are part of a corrupt quid pro quo,” the lawyer argued.

Menendez’s attorney, Adam Fee, attacked the FBI agent’s testimony that the senator’s jacket was in a bedroom closet with gold and cash, when it was actually elsewhere in the house. The agent corrected himself a day later when confronted about the detail in cross-examination.

As he began his closing arguments late Tuesday, Fee said the evidence in the case was not “overwhelming” but “cherry-picked nonsense.” He criticized the lawyers for telling a “false story” of unsolicited bribery and said his client’s actions were “lawful, normal and good for his constituents in this country”.

If Menendez kept money in his home, Fee said, “basically everyone in his family was hoarding money” after he was targeted and robbed by authorities in Cuba before fleeing to the United States in the 1950s. Even after being born in New York, Menendez followed his parents’ example, he said.

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“They want you to decide that every dollar must have been a bribe,” Fee said of the government. But he insisted, “There is no text, no email, no photo showing Senator Menendez taking a bribe — because there is none!”

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