Home » Bob ‘Gold Bars’ Menendez could pin the blame on his wife in his bribery trial

Bob ‘Gold Bars’ Menendez could pin the blame on his wife in his bribery trial

by John Jefferson
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New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez may blame his wife if he takes the stand during his bribery trial, according to newly-released court documents.

The filings, released this week, show that the Democratic lawmaker could claim that Nadine Menendez was the one taking bribes from foreign government officials and that she was then hiding the truth from him, as he seeks to clear his name of allegations that he traded his political influence for cash, gold bars and a luxury Mercedes.

“While these explanations, and the marital communications on which they rely, will tend to exonerate Senator Menendez by demonstrating the absence of any improper intent on Senator Menendez’s part, they may inculpate Nadine by demonstrating how she withheld information from Senator Menendez or otherwise led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place,” the documents state.

Mr Menendez’s lawyer added that, as part of his defence if he chooses to take the stand, he will testify about communications with his wife that prove he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

The New Jersey Democrat’s possible defence strategy was filed under seal with a federal judge in January before being made public on Tuesday after several media outlets requested it be unsealed.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, left, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, arrive at the federal courthouse in New York (The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Mr Menendez and his wife were charged in September with allegedly accepting gifts including cash, gold bars and a luxury car in exchange for the use of the senator’s influence to enrich three New Jersey businessmen and benefit the Egyptian government.

Prosecutors said businessman Wael Hana had arranged meetings between Mr Menendez and Egyptian officials, who pressed the senator to sign off on military aid.

In return, Mr Hana put Ms Menendez on the payroll of a company he controlled, prosecutors alleged.

The senator and his wife were also accused of attempting to “cover-up” the bribery scheme by repaying more than $20,000 worth of bribe money under the guise of loans. The couple allegedly used thay money to pay for a Mercedes-Benz and home mortgage payments.

The couple was later slapped with two superseding indictments in October relating to an alleged scheme involving Qatar.

Mr and Ms Menendez and the businessmen have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Earlier this month, Judge Sidney Stein ordered separate trials for Mr and Ms Menendez amid news that she had fallen ill and would require surgery and weeks of recovery.

But the newly-unsealed court documents revealed that lawyers for Mr Menendez asked that the senator and his wife be tried separately because he “intends to present a defence arguing (in part) that he lacked the requisite knowledge of much of the conduct and statements of his wife, Nadine”.

“By this defense, Senator Menendez’s legal team may have to argue, in effect, that any unlawful conduct — and we are aware of none —involved the actions of others (including Nadine), not the Senator,” his lawyers wrote.

They argued that the senator will face a “catch-22” situation if he is tried alongside his wife because a joint trial would “force Senator Menendez to make an impossible and prejudicial choice between testifying on his own behalf and exercising his spousal privilege to avoid being converted through cross-examination into a witness against his spouse”.

In a separate motion, lawyers for Ms Menendez made a similar argument.

They argued a joint trial would likely demonstrate an “irreconcilable conflict between husband and wife” and that it would be “unfair to require either spouse to sacrifice the right to testify fully in one’s own defence or the ability to tain the confidentiality of privileged marital communications”.

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