Last witness to be called by prosecutors in the corruption trial of Senator Menendez

Luc Cohen authored the following paragraph:

The corruption trial of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is expected to see the prosecution’s last witness on Friday. This will allow Menendez, who was once a powerful lawmaker, to present his defense.

Over a duration of six weeks in Manhattan federal court, the prosecution team has been trying to depict the senior senator of New Jersey as a self-serving politician. They have accused him of trying to use his influence to help foreign governments and obstruct the ongoing investigations into his associates who allegedly bribed him and his wife with gold bars, cash, a car, and home payments.

Menendez denies all 16 criminal charges against him, including bribery, fraud, acting as a foreign agent, and obstruction. His wife, Nadine Menendez, has also entered a plea of not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in August.

Bob Menendez’s legal team has endeavored to separate him from his wife’s financial affairs. They have presented actions that the prosecution has described as dubious, such as the senator’s assistance to the governments of Egypt and Qatar, or discussions with prosecutors regarding his associates’ cases, as regular legislative activities and support for constituents.

According to Paul Tuchmann, a former federal prosecutor and current partner at law firm Wiggin and Dana, simply proving that Senator Menendez or Nadine Menendez received a benefit and that Senator Menendez took an official act is not sufficient. The prosecution must also prove that the benefit was given in exchange for the official act.

At the age of 70, Menendez resigned as the chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, following his charges in September. However, despite pressure from fellow Democrats, he has refused to step down from the Senate. He is currently running for re-election as an independent in the upcoming November 5th election.

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According to his lawyers, they may call up to 21 witnesses to testify, but they have not yet disclosed any names.

Prosecutors revealed in a court filing on Thursday that defense lawyers had informed them about their intention to summon Menendez’s elder sister to give testimony on the senator’s habit of keeping cash outside of banks, which stems from his personal and family history.

At the moment, there has been no response from Menendez’s defense lawyers when asked for a comment. Furthermore, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan has declined to comment on the matter.

The defense team is faced with challenging testimony from government witnesses. During the trial, Jose Uribe, an insurance broker who admitted to bribing Menendez, recounted an incident where the senator thanked him for aiding Nadine Menendez in purchasing a $60,000 Mercedes-Benz. According to Uribe, Menendez claimed that he had “saved” two of his associates from state investigations in New Jersey.

During his testimony, Philip Sellinger, the highest-ranking federal prosecutor in New Jersey, stated that when he showed interest in a particular job in late 2020, Senator Menendez shared his thoughts with him. In particular, Menendez expressed his belief that businessman Fred Daibes, who was indicted for fraud, was not being treated fairly. Interestingly, Daibes is currently standing trial alongside Menendez and has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribing the senator.

During the trial, Sellinger provided testimony that could potentially benefit the defense. He stated that he never experienced any pressure from Menendez to engage in any improper actions. Additionally, Uribe confirmed that he had not discussed Nadine Menendez’s car payments with Bob Menendez.

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Allon Lifshitz, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in the case, explains that prosecutors will urge jurors to use common sense to infer Menendez’s knowledge. These inferences include the fact that Menendez knew it was inappropriate to discuss individual cases with prosecutors and that he and his wife likely discussed the bribes due to sharing details of their lives. Lifshitz, who is currently a partner at Cohen & Gresser law firm, emphasizes the importance of common sense in drawing conclusions about Menendez’s involvement in the case.

According to Lifshitz, the prosecutor will assert that the senator must have been aware that Mrs. Menendez was receiving luxurious items such as a Mercedes, gold bars, and mortgage payments while simultaneously requesting favors for individuals in her life.

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