NEW YORK (AP) — New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez wants a New York judge to toss out much of the evidence in the bribery prosecution against him, saying investigators illegally searched his residence as revenge because the Democrat defeated a prior prosecution in his home state.
His arguments, delivered by his lawyers, were contained in papers filed late Monday in Manhattan federal court, where Menendez faces a May trial.
In 2017, a federal jury in New Jersey deadlocked on 18 criminal charges against Menendez and a wealthy Florida eye doctor accused of buying his influence with luxury vacations and campaign contributions. Prosecutors then dropped the case.
“The government’s apparent zeal to ‘get back’ at Senator Menendez for defeating its prior prosecution has overwhelmed its sound judgment,” his lawyers said. “The FBI ran roughshod over the Senator’s Fourth Amendment rights, and all evidence collected from those searches must therefore be suppressed.”
Along with his wife, the 70-year-old Democrat is now charged with accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car over the last five years to carry out favors for three businessmen who are also charged. All have pleaded not guilty.
After his fall arrest, the senator was forced to give up his powerful post leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez's lawyers asserted in their latest effort to find defects in the indictment against him that search warrants used to get judicial permission for the seizure of Menendez's personal belongings “were riddled with material misrepresentations and omissions.”
Menendez's lawyers said FBI agents ransacked the senator's home during a June 16, 2022 raid, seizing “virtually anything of value.”
“Agents broke down doors (even, in some cases, where the doors were unlocked) and tore apart closets, wardrobes, dressers and other storage locations in the home, flipped over documents and rifled through file folders,” they wrote. “The FBI seized all manner of things, including the cash and gold bars that the government has made the centerpiece of its case.”
Some pages of the lawyers' submission were heavily redacted as they asked the judge to conduct a hearing to study their claims.
A spokesperson for prosecutors declined to comment.