Sen. Bob Menendez and wife seek separate trials on bribery charges

FILE - Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., departs the Senate floor in the Capitol, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington. Menendez introduced a member of the Qatari royal family and principal in a company with ties to the government of Qatar to a New Jersey businessman before the company invested millions of dollars in the businessman's real estate project, a rewritten indictment alleged Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (Alex Brandon, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife are seeking separate trials on bribery charges they each face in a New York court.

The New Jersey Democrat and his wife, Nadine, were each charged in the fall with aiding three New Jersey businessmen in return for cash, gold bars and a luxury car.

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The couple and the businessmen, who also face charges, have all pleaded not guilty.

Nadine Menendez’s lawyers asked in papers filed late Monday for the severance on the grounds that the senator may want to testify at a trial scheduled to start in May and may divulge marital communications that she plans to keep secret.

Lawyers for Bob Menendez wrote that each spouse should face separate trials so that the senator does not provide information about marital communications during cross-examination that might be damaging to his wife's defense.

They asked the trial judge not to force “him to choose between two fundamental rights: his right to testify in his own defense and his right not to testify against his spouse.”

The requests for separate trials were made as part of several pre-trial submissions late Monday by lawyers for defendants in the case.

Several days earlier, the senator's lawyers had asked that charges in the case be dismissed. They added to those requests Monday, calling charges against him a “distortion of the truth.”

“Senator Menendez isn’t just ‘not guilty’ — he is innocent of these charges. Senator Menendez has never sold out his office or misused his authority or influence for personal financial gain,” they wrote.

Since the senator was first charged in September, he has been forced to relinquish his powerful post leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Prosecutors have added to the bribery charges too, saying that he conspired with his wife and one businessman to secretly advance Egypt’s interests and that he acted favorably toward Qatar’s government to aid a businessman.

“Over and over again, the Indictment distorts or ignores evidence reflecting the Senator’s conduct in favor of American — and only American — interests and his decades of appropriate constituent services,” the lawyers said.

“Worse yet, the government knows it. The government has buried evidence proving Senator Menendez’s innocence, including evidence that directly undercuts the allegations in the Indictment. And the defense is prohibited from disclosing any of it to the public — necessitating a redacted filing under seal — even as the government has gone on its own media blitz to advance its false narrative,” the lawyers said.

The lawyers also said the trial should not be in New York since almost everything alleged to have occurred happened in New Jersey or outside New York.

“This case belongs in New Jersey,” they said.

The lawyers noted that Menendez won an earlier corruption case in New Jersey with “at least 10 jurors voting to acquit the Senator on the government’s hyped-up corruption charges.”

A spokesperson for prosecutors declined to comment. Prosecutors will reply to all the pre-trial motions with arguments of their own in several weeks.

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