Connect with us

New Jersey

Did he take bribes, or was he duped by his wife? Arguments under way in Menendez trial • New Jersey Monitor

Published

on

Did he take bribes, or was he duped by his wife? Arguments under way in Menendez trial • New Jersey Monitor


After a slow start, Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial hit warp speed Wednesday, with the defense team using opening arguments to blame everything on his wife and ending the day by demanding a mistrial.

With 12 jurors and six alternates seated after two and a half days of questioning, the case kicked off after lunchtime with prosecutor Lara Pomerantz methodically outlining the 18-count indictment against Menendez — a Democrat and New Jersey’s senior senator — and two of his co-defendants, businessman Wael Hana and Edgewater real estate developer Fred Daibes.

“For years, Robert Menendez abused his position to feed his own greed and to keep his wife happy,” Pomerantz said. “Menendez put his power up for sale, and Hana and Daibes were more than happy to buy it.”

But defense attorney Avi Weitzman told the jury that there were “innocent explanations” for all of prosecutors’ accusations, and he quickly cut to what might be the heart of his defense — Menendez’s claim that his wife, Nadine, kept him in the dark about the gold bars, cash, luxury car, and other bribes she allegedly took from Hana, Daibes, and a third co-defendant Jose Uribe, who pleaded guilty in March.

Advertisement

“The real question for you is: What did Bob know?” Weitzman told the jury.

Daibes and Hana are standing trial alongside Menendez, and their attorneys are expected to deliver their opening statements Thursday morning. Nadine Menendez was charged too, but U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein previously postponed her trial to July because she has a medical issue.

Nadine Menendez was a chief focus during opening statements of husband Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial Wednesday, with his attorneys saying she hid from him the gold bars and cash that prosecutors allege the two took as bribes. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

The senator’s wife

Despite her absence in the courtroom in Manhattan, Nadine Menendez loomed large over the trial Wednesday, with both prosecutors and the senator’s defense team repeatedly referring to her and her role in a bribery scheme that prosecutors say stretched back to 2018, when the couple began dating and a year after Sen. Menendez’s last corruption trial ended with a hung jury.

Advertisement

Pomerantz painted her as the insulation Menendez put between himself and his alleged benefactors, saying Nadine’s role as go-between gave the senator plausible deniability.

“Menendez was careful when he was committing crimes,” she said. “He was smart enough not to send too many texts. Instead, he had Nadine do that for him.”

Weitzman, though, portrayed her as a greedy manipulator who took gold, cash, and other bribes without her husband’s knowledge. The couple had separate finances, lived separately until April 2020, and have largely led separate lives since then, and FBI agents found all the gold bars in her locked closet, Weitzman said.

While the 70-year-old senator knew his wife had gold bars, he thought they were an inheritance from her family, who had built a fortune in the Persian rug business, he added. Instead, he said, Nadine had always been financially supported by other people, including a previous husband and by her wealthy family, and consequently “tried to get cash and assets any which way she could,” Weitzman said.

“I’ll acknowledge it smells a bit weird,” he said of what he called “the green and gold elephant in the room.”

Advertisement

Besides gold, investigators also found more than $400,000 stuffed in envelopes, jacket pockets, and shoes all over the couple’s home. Weitzman attributed that hoarded cash to the senator’s habit — forged after his family fled with nothing from Cuba in the 1950s — of making monthly withdrawals of $400 to $500 for decades and keeping the cash at home.

Prosecutors say the riches were corrupt payments for official actions that only a senator could deliver.

“Quid pro quo — this for that,” Pomerantz repeated throughout her opening statements.

Specifically, prosecutors have accused Menendez of taking gold, cash, and a no-show, “sham job” for Nadine Menendez from her longtime friend Hana to help Hana secure a monopoly on importing halal meat to Egypt.

“Hana didn’t actually have any experience in this business, but what he did have was a U.S. senator in his pocket,” Pomerantz said.

Advertisement

In exchange, Menendez also provided sensitive information about staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and even ghost-wrote a letter from an Egyptian official to U.S. lawmakers who had held up millions in military arms and aid to Egypt over concerns about human rights abuses there, prosecutors allege.

Menendez also tried to disrupt the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey’s prosecution of Daibes and a fraud investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office involving Uribe, an insurance broker who was friends with Hana, prosecutors said.

In exchange, Uribe gave Nadine $15,000 in cash in a parking lot as a down payment on a $60,000 Mercedes Benz convertible and continued to make monthly payments afterward for years, Pomerantz said.

“This was not politics as usual. It was politics for profit,” she said. “Robert Menendez was a United States senator on the take, motivated by greed and focused on how much he could put in his own pocket, and in his wife’s pocket.”

Weitzman insisted prosecutors were “wrong, dead wrong.”

Advertisement

Menendez took no bribes and never acted as a foreign agent for any government, he said.

“The actions Senator Menendez took were actions on behalf of constituents,” he said.

His interactions with Egyptian and Qatari officials were merely him “engaging in diplomacy on behalf of the U.S. government,” he added.

Weitzman urged jurors to remember Menendez’s long history of public service. Menendez has served in the Senate since 2006, in the House from 1993 to 2006, and in the New Jersey Legislature and Union City politics before that.

“He’s an American patriot,” Weitzman said.

Advertisement

About that mistrial motion

Stein rejected defense attorney Adam Fee’s argument that Pomerantz tainted jurors during her opening statements by implying that Menendez agreed to publicly support Qatar to help Daibes land an investment from a member of Qatar’s royal family in exchange for gold bars and cash.

Fee accused Pomerantz of violating Stein’s order that prosecutors couldn’t discuss the substance of a resolution supporting Qatar that Daibes allegedly urged Menendez to introduce to help him secure the investment.

“This is angels dancing on the head of a pin, your honor. They are injecting this case with that inference,” Fee said.

Advertisement

But after a heated back-and-forth between Fee and prosecutor Daniel Richenthal, Stein denied the mistrial motion.

“There’s no basis for it,” he said.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Advertisement

Advertisement



Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New Jersey

Photos/Review: Stabbing rip through New Jersey – 5/22/2024

Published

on

Photos/Review: Stabbing rip through New Jersey – 5/22/2024


As one of the few bands to meaningfully push the envelope of just how “brutal” death metal can be, Stabbing make up for a complete absence of any melodic elements in their music with utterly extreme blasts, filthy vocals, and chromatic slam riffs. 2023’s debut full-length Extirpated Mortal Process saw the band fully realize their brand of pure brutal death metal depravity and solidified their reputation in the underground metal scene as a band to watch.

It’s no surprise that only 24 hours before this show, the band announced that they’ve been signed to Century Media, joining the ranks of the scene’s biggest contemporary death metal acts including Sanguisugabogg, Frozen Soul, and Vomit Forth. Rolling through New Jersey in a string of dates between Milwaukee Metalfest and Maryland Deathfest, Stabbing stops at Clifton, NJ for a night of chaos, playing to a crowd with absolutely zero regard for their own self-preservation in the pit. This short run feels special (and somewhat dangerous as the venue lacks any sort of security to keep the pit contained), watching a band on the precipice of blowing up. With support from local favorites Final Girls and fellow Jersey bands Ways to the Grave and World Eater, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2024.

World Eater, a metal band seemingly born from the ashes of a Magic: The Gathering deck, kicks off the night strong. Frontman Ed Pacella is an absolute force – his death growl and endless parade around the stage draw you in, but the riffs keep you hooked. I struggle to grasp that they’re still relative newcomers to the scene – though some members have played in other groups in the past, this combination of members seems like the winning formula. World Eater blurs the line between familiar and modern with a sound that’s equal parts Bolt Thrower and a thousand screams into an endless void of cosmic horror. Ripping solos and more melodic riffing separate them sonically from the rest of the bands tonight, yet they fit right in with this lineup.

World Eater
Advertisement

Moving into more progressive territory is Ways to the Grave, the second band of the night. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to forget that some of these kids aren’t quite old enough to order a drink at the venue, playing at a level way beyond their years. Despite the longer songs, there’s meaningful commercial appeal in the way they infuse elements of popular death metal with prog-leaning tendencies. Watching this band refine bits of their performance and presentation over the past few months, their relentless gigging will smooth out any inconsistencies in time, and make them a band to watch. 

Ways to the Grave

If you need to fill a room in New Jersey, you book Final Girls – it’s a Wednesday night but the Final Girls fans still come out in full force and dress to the nines, Their brand of horror-infused death metal puts them on top of the local scene, and probably the next band in the area to start making serious moves. Unveiling a new setlist tonight and largely moving beyond the songs first introduced on their EP, Final Girls were in top form. Watching Sofia DeMasi behind the kit is always a highlight, and Casey Cruz continues to escalate their stage show to new extremes. Despite some gear hiccups, Ashleigh Hernandez and Sofia Albanese kept the show moving with grace.

Final Girls

Advertisement

And finally, Stabbing took the stage. It’s a lot like watching a bomb go off in front of you. Their 40-minute set was completely unrelenting – no reprieve from the brutal riffs and endless gutturals; there are no slow (or even mid-paced) songs in their catalog to give your body a break from the pit that never closes. At the center of everything is vocalist Bridget Lynch and guitarist Marvin Ruiz. Lynch is simply one of the most consistent brutal death metal vocalists I’ve ever witnessed, never missing a beat, never faltering or wavering in her delivery. Despite being a one-guitar band, Ruiz absolutely flooded the roof with his precise riffing and grooves. The rhythm section was no less impressive, perfectly in time and locked in like a well-oiled machine. Stabbing is easily one of the best live bands on the circuit right now and for a good reason. The venue flooded their set with red light – very appropriate – but every member of the band was mesmerizing to watch. We might not be ready for whatever Stabbing decides to do next – and there’s nowhere for them to go but up. 

Stabbing



Source link

Continue Reading

New Jersey

Sheldon Keefe Press Conference | LIVE | New Jersey Devils

Published

on

Sheldon Keefe Press Conference | LIVE | New Jersey Devils


NewJerseyDevils.com is the official web site of the New Jersey Devils, a member team of the National Hockey League (“NHL”). NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2024 New Jersey Devils and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.



Source link

Continue Reading

New Jersey

The New Jersey Devils will have a top-three power play with Sheldon Keefe

Published

on

The New Jersey Devils will have a top-three power play with Sheldon Keefe


It has been just under a week since the New Jersey Devils hired Sheldon Keefe as their new head coach, but everyone already has an opinion on it. When you really think about it, he should be the perfect fit for this team. The Devils high-end talent should react well to what Sheldon Keefe does best.

One area that he may excel in is the power play. In fact, with guys like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Luke Hughes, Dougie Hamilton, and Dawson Mercer amongst others to work with, they could be a top-five group.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, with Keefe as the head coach, had a ton of talent as well. Guys like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly all made their power play special as well.

Keefe knows how to get the most out of great players. That will include hiring the right person to run this power play so it can take advantage of all the skills the team possesses.

Advertisement

During the regular season, the Maple Leafs had a 23.9 playoff percentage which was good for seventh in the NHL. New Jersey, on the other hand, finished 13th with a 22.4 percentage. That number doesn’t tell the whole story, though. They were first in December when Jack Hughes was healthy. In the second half, they mostly missed Hughes, but they went long stretches without a power play goal and fell to 13th.

With Keefe and his eventual new staff coming in, the Devils should be able to be a top-five group and keep it that way. If they do, making the playoffs shouldn’t be a problem for them.

New Jersey has too much offensive firepower to not be scoring on the power play with regularity. There is no reason that they can’t be one of the best in the league and Keefe is going to hire someone that will help them get there.



Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending