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Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife will have separate bribery trials, judge rules

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife will be tried separately on allegations that they participated in a bribery scheme, a federal judge ruled Thursday, agreeing to sever and delay Nadine Menendez’s trial after her lawyers argued that she requires treatment for a serious medical condition.

The New Jersey Democrat’s trial will remain scheduled for May 6 in Manhattan federal court, while Nadine Menendez’s trial was tentatively pushed back to July.

“This trial is going forward without Mrs. Menendez,” said Judge Sidney H. Stein. “The government is going to have to try this case two times.”

Nadine Menendez’s lawyers argued for the move in a letter to Stein this week, saying she was recently diagnosed with an unspecified condition that will require surgery in the next four to six weeks. In court on Thursday, they said she needs more time for testing to understand the nature of the condition.

A lawyer for the senator, Adam Fee, urged the judge not to hold up his client’s day in court over the issue, saying the allegations are a “specter” hanging over Bob Menendez that “effectively removes his ability to run in this year’s election.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, contended that the entire trial should just be delayed, arguing in a letter to the judge that severing Nadine Menendez’s trial from her husband’s would result in “serious inefficiencies and unfairness” that would require dozens of witnesses to be recalled.

“We’re ready to try this case, we want to try this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal said in court. “We don’t want to try this case twice.”

Stein on Thursday also denied motions to dismiss the indictment outright and transfer the case to New Jersey.

The Menendezes and two businessmen have pleaded not guilty to charges that they participated in a bribery scheme in which prosecutors say cash and gold bars were given to the couple in return for the senator carrying out political favors. Bob Menendez chaired the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he stepped down from the role in September because of the allegations.

A third businessman, Jose Uribe, has pleaded guilty to bribery charges and agreed to testify against the others at trial. Uribe said he conspired with Nadine Menendez and others to provide her with a Mercedes-Benz in return for access to her husband’s power and influence.

Prosecutors allege that in return for the bribes, Menendez helped one of the businessmen get a lucrative meat-certification deal with Egypt. Menendez helped another associate get a deal with a Qatari investment fund, an indictment alleges.

Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press

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