Politics

Bob Menendez Challenges Evidence in Gold Bar Bribery Case

Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), accused of accepting gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for influence, is fighting to suppress evidence from search warrants executed by the government, including the warrant that led to the seizure of hundreds of thousands in cash and gold bars from his residence. 

This comes as Menendez told the Washington Post that he thinks that if he beats the three felony charges laid out against him in a September indictment quickly enough, he could win reelection to his Senate seat, though he has not formally launched a bid to this point. 

In the memo supporting his motion to suppress evidence obtained in five search warrants on Monday, lawyers for Menendez noted he was challenging the June 16, 2022, search warrant of his home. The memo, published by the New Jersey Monitor, describes the searches as “illegal.” In their indictment, prosecutors for the Southern District of New York State wrote that the June 16 search led to the seizure of $486,461 in cash, two one-kilogram gold bars, and eleven one-ounce gold bars from the home of Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez.

This photo, which was included in an indictment of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), shows a jacket bearing Menendez’s name, along with cash from envelopes found inside the jacket during a search by federal agents of the senator’s home in Harrison, New Jersey, in 2022. (U.S. Attorney’s Office via AP)

This image, provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York, shows two gold bars found during a search by federal agents of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) home and safe deposit box. (U.S. Attorney’s Office via AP)

The indictment alleges the Menendezes “engaged in a corrupt relationship with three New Jersey associates and businessmen,” in which the couple “agreed to and did accept hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using MENENDEZ’s power and influence as a senator to seek to protect and enrich” the men “and to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt.” 

However, in the filing on Monday, Menendez’s attorneys contend that President Joe Biden’s Justice Department repeatedly violated his “Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The filing alleges that “several of the government’s search warrants were riddled with material misrepresentations and omissions that deceived the authorizing magistrate judge and now require an evidentiary Franks hearing.” 

The memo adds:

Other search warrants were overbroad and unparticularized ‘general warrants’ that permitted the government to rummage through the senator’s personal life going back years before the conduct at issue. The government’s overreach now requires judicial intervention. 

It further argues that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “ran roughshod over the senator’s Fourth Amendment rights, and all evidence collected from those searches must therefore be suppressed.” 

Lawyers for Menendez further state that his home was “ransacked” in the June 16 search: 

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. [Redacted]… The FBI seized all manner of things, including cash and gold bars that the government has made the centerpiece of its case. 

They also contend that in the warrant for that search, the “government intentionally or recklessly omitted disclosure of substantial exculpatory evidence the FBI received from witnesses that very same day.” 

“Again, given the closeness in time between these exculpatory statements and the FBI agent’s swearing out of the June 16 affidavit (in the evening), the failure to disclose these exculpatory statements can only be described as intentional or reckless,” the document continues after a lengthy redaction.

The June 16, 2022, warrant is one of five search warrants in which Menendez is seeking to suppress the evidence, per his team’s memo. 

In an interview published on Tuesday, Menendez, who has denied all allegations, told the Washington Post he predicts a victory in the case.

“My history will not be defined by this case,” Menendez said. “‘And I have every expectation that we’re’ — his voice tightens — ‘gonna win,’” wrote Post Political Reporter Jesús Rodriguez.

Later in the article, Rodriguez noted Menendez suggested he could be reelected in 2024:

Back in his office, Menendez says New Jerseyans could still reelect him “if we get our chance, in a timely fashion,” to fight the charges in court. He’s bullish he could beat the case before it gets to trial. As for his popularity, “I have never run where my poll — I mean, it wasn’t single digits — but I had never run where my poll was ever particularly good.”

Menendez is charged with “Conspiracy to Commit Bribery,” “Conspiracy to Commit Honest Service Fraud,” and “Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right.” The post noted his trial is set for May.

The case is the United States of America v. Menendez, No. 23 CRIM 490, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

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