Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife seek separate trials in bribery case

Even if the charges go forward, Bob Menendez's attorneys said he should be tried in New Jersey.

Published: January 16, 2024 7:40am

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are asking a judge to try them both separately on federal corruption charges as their trial is scheduled to start in May in New York City, according to new court documents filed by both of their attorneys. 

Nadine Menendez told the judge in a request filed late Monday evening that she understood that her husband may testify at their trial as the couple and three other co-defendants face a litany of conspiracy charges including bribery, fraud, extortion and acting as a foreign agent in connection to Egypt and Qatar. All co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Her lawyers wrote in the court filing that the senator's testimony "could include revealing confidential marital communications with Ms. Menendez that Senator Menendez deems essential and material to his defense," according to The New York Times

A defendant's spouse may decide to testify but cannot be forced to in most criminal cases. And in this case, Nadine Menendez wants her discussions with her husband to remain private, her attorneys wrote to Federal District Court Judge Sidney Stein. 

Several hours later, the senator's attorneys filed a brief with a similar argument. 

Trying the couple together would "force Senator Menendez to make an impossible and prejudicial choice between testifying on his own behalf and exercising his spousal privilege to avoid being converted through cross-examination into a witness against his spouse," his attorneys wrote. 

Echoing comments made by Bob Menendez on the Senate floor last week, his attorneys argued in Monday's filing that the case is a "leaky, sinking ship." Even if the charges go forward, they said he should be tried in New Jersey.

"If there’s a trial of this case — and there should be none — it should be a solo trial of the senator, in New Jersey, where all the key events alleged in this case took place," Bob Menendez's attorney, Avi Weitzman, said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case, will have until Feb. 5 to respond. 

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