Crime

Defense rests after Menendez declines to take stand

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said Wednesday he will not take the stand in his federal bribery and corruption trial, claiming prosecutors failed to prove “every aspect” of the sprawling case against him.  The Democratic senator said that to “give them another chance” by taking the witness stand was “simply not something that makes any sense to […]

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said Wednesday he will not take the stand in his federal bribery and corruption trial, claiming prosecutors failed to prove “every aspect” of the sprawling case against him. 

The Democratic senator said that to “give them another chance” by taking the witness stand was “simply not something that makes any sense to me whatsoever.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) leaves federal court following the day’s proceedings in his bribery trial, Friday, June 28, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister)

“I expect my lawyers will produce a powerful and convincing summation, deduce how the evidence came out, and where they failed across the board, and how the jury will render a verdict of not guilty,” Menendez said before wishing reporters who followed him to his car from a Manhattan federal courthouse a “Happy Fourth of July.”


Defense lawyers rested their case after his decision not to testify. Closing arguments start as early as Monday.

Defense lawyers used two days this week calling witnesses to counter several weeks of testimony and hundreds of exhibits brought by prosecutors. 

The government has spent the past seven weeks painting Menendez as a greedy politician who held court in his New Jersey home, rang a tiny silver bell to summon his wife, and puffed on cigars. Prosecutors claimed he had agreed to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, a convertible, and 13 gold bars in exchange for steering aid to Egypt, facilitating a halal meat monopoly, and disrupting criminal investigations on behalf of his friends.

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Menendez, 70, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were both charged in the yearslong scheme.

She was supposed to be on trial with her husband, but her court date has been pushed back to at least August while she recovers from breast cancer.

Bob Menendez is on trial with two of the New Jersey businessmen accused of bribing him after a third pleaded guilty and cut a deal with the government. 

Bob Menendez, Nadine Menendez, Wael Hana, and Fred Daibes have all pleaded not guilty.

Earlier this week, Bob Menendez’s sister Caridad Gonzalez, 80, testified that storing cash in one’s home is a “Cuban thing” in an attempt to explain why federal agents found $480,000 in cash during a raid at the senator’s New Jersey home last year.

Gonzalez said her family was forced to leave everything behind when they fled Cuba and that the only money they had was what her father hid in the false bottom of a grandfather clock.

She insisted that Cubans often hid cash at home because they were distrustful of the banks and government. 

“It’s a Cuban thing,” said Gonzalez, the first witness to testify for the defense. “They were afraid of losing what they worked so hard for.”

Gonzalez was 8 years old when her parents fled Cuba, three years before Menendez was born in New York City. 

Gonzalez testified that the habit of keeping cash on hand had been drilled into her and her brother by their parents, who often told harrowing tales of police officers pressuring their father to shut down a manufacturing facility he operated. 

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“Daddy always said: ‘Don’t trust the banks. If you trust the banks, you never know what can happen. So you must always have money at home,’” she said. 

Gonzalez’s testimony was key for the defense as it tried to explain why FBI agents had found 13 gold bars, cash, and other pricey items at Menendez’s home.

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