Prosecutors rest in seventh week of Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial

Before resting, prosecutors elicited details about the senator’s financial records by questioning an FBI forensic accountant.

Bob Menendez

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., leaves federal court in New York, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)

What you need to know

Prosecutors rested on Friday after presenting evidence for seven weeks at the bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez, enabling the Democrat and two New Jersey businessmen to begin calling their own witnesses next week to support defense claims that no crimes were committed and no bribes were paid.

Before resting, prosecutors elicited details about the senator’s financial records by questioning an FBI forensic accountant.

Prosecutors say gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash found in a 2022 raid of Menendez’s home were bribes paid by three businessmen from 2018 to 2022 in return for favors Menendez used his political power to carry out on their behalf.

Defense lawyers claim the gold belonged to his wife and that Menendez had a habit of storing cash at home after his family lost almost everything in Cuba before they moved to New York, where Menendez was born.

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Menendez, 70, is on trial with two of the businessmen after a third pleaded guilty in a cooperation deal with the government and testified at the trial. Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, is also charged in the case, which was unveiled last fall. Her trial has been postponed while she recovers from breast cancer surgery. All defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Menendez’s lawyers are planning to spend up to three days presenting testimony from several witnesses to support their argument that Nadine Arslanian kept Menendez in the dark about her financial troubles after she began dating him in early 2018.

They also plan to introduce testimony to try to show that Arslanian, who married Menendez in fall 2020, was in close contact with Menendez at the height of the alleged conspiracy in late 2018 and early 2019 because she was being harassed by an ex-boyfriend.

Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled on Wednesday that defense lawyers can elicit testimony to counter evidence introduced by prosecutors that might otherwise be interpreted to suggest that Nadine Arslanian and Menendez seemed to be closely following each other’s whereabouts because they were involved in the alleged conspiracy.

But he said he wouldn’t allow the jury to hear any evidence suggesting that she ended up in the hospital at one point as a result of an abusive relationship with an ex-boyfriend.

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“This is not going to be ‘Days of Our Lives’ or some soap opera,” the judge warned lawyers.

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