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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Trial in Menéndez corruption case is scheduled for next May

Wael Hana, a co-defendant of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, arrives at Federal District Court in New York on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

By Benjamin Weiser

A federal judge in Manhattan on Monday said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who faces charges of wide-ranging corruption, will stand trial May 6 next year, along with his wife and three businesspeople who were indicted with him.

The date would place the trial just one month before the June 4 New Jersey state primary and raises the specter, if Menendez runs for reelection, of voters going to the polls while he is on trial, without knowing what verdict, if any, the jury might return.

In court Monday, a prosecutor said the government expected the trial to last four to six weeks, assuming all five defendants were still part of the case.

Menendez, who has stepped down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had been preparing to run for reelection but has not indicated whether, in the face of bribery charges, he still intended to seek a fourth full term. If he were to pursue his party’s nomination, he would almost certainly face a crowded field of opponents.

Menendez, 69, has called the claims against him false and said he will be cleared of any wrongdoing. He has also rejected pressure from many fellow Democrats who are urging him to resign from the Senate.

Judge Sidney Stein of U.S. District Court, made it clear Monday that he wanted the government and the defense to prepare their cases expeditiously in order “to effectuate the defendants’ speedy trial rights.”

Menendez, his wife, Nadine Menendez, 56, and the three businesspeople were accused in what prosecutors described as a scheme to use the senator’s influence to increase U.S. aid and military sales to Egypt in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars, bars of gold bullion and a Mercedes-Benz convertible.

One of the businesspeople, Wael Hana, a U.S. citizen born in Egypt, and Nadine Menendez “worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Menendez for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement,” the indictment said.

Bob Menendez, his wife, Hana and the two others — Fred Daibes, a real estate developer, and Jose Uribe, who works in the trucking industry — have all pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni, told Stein that the amount of documents and other materials the government will be producing to the defense is “quite voluminous.”

“Our investigation was lengthy and extensive, and it’s ongoing,” Monteleoni said.

He also noted that the government may file a superseding or revised indictment but said such action would not materially affect the trial schedule. Prosecutors often file such indictments when they want to add new defendants or charges in a case — but Monteleoni did not elaborate on what such a new indictment might include in Menendez’s case.

Bob Menendez was not in court Monday. His lawyer, Seth Farber, wrote to the judge last week, noting that “because of the need for Senator Menendez to be present in Washington, D.C., on Monday for potential Senate votes and other Senate business, there is particular justification for excusing his personal appearance.”

Stein granted the senator’s request but denied similar requests by Nadine Menendez and Hana.

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