Menendez Ends Defense at Bribery Trial Without Testifying

(Bloomberg) -- US Senator Bob Menendez ended his defense case at his bribery trial Wednesday without testifying, setting up closing arguments next week in the New Jersey Democrat’s second corruption trial in the past decade.

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Lawyers for Menendez, 70, presented five witnesses to rebut more than two dozen witnesses and hundreds of exhibits offered by prosecutors since testimony began seven weeks ago in Manhattan federal court.

Menendez, a three-term senator, has vowed to beat a sweeping indictment that accuses him of taking bribes of cash, 13 gold bars and a Mercedes Benz from three businessmen seeking favors. Menendez is on trial with businessmen Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, while his wife, Nadine, will be tried separately.

“The government has failed in every aspect of its case,” Menendez told reporters outside the courthouse. “To testify gives them another chance at in essence a second summation.”

A third businessman, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty and testified as a prosecution witness. Besides bribery, Menendez is accused of acting as an agent of Egypt and other charges.

Daibes also rested his case without calling any witnesses. Hana called one witness on Wednesday and may call another when the trial resumes on Monday. US District Judge Sidney Stein said he expects the prosecutors will begin summations later that day.

Defense lawyers sought to offer jurors an alternate explanation for why Menendez would have so much cash and gold when FBI agents raided the house he shared with his wife in June 2022.

Earlier this week, Menendez’s sister testified that their Cuban family long held cash, bolstering his argument that he kept currency in his house and that almost $500,000 seized by FBI agents wasn’t from illegal bribes. Nadine Menendez’s sister also testified that her family had a long tradition of storing gold bars and jewelry at home in safes or at banks.

Menendez’s first trial, on unrelated corruption charges in New Jersey, ended in a mistrial in 2017. Prosecutors then dropped the case.

The case is US v. Menendez, 23-cr-490, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(Updates with comment from Menendez.)

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