Defense rests in Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal bribery trial; senator declines to take stand

Lawyers for Sen Bob Menendez called several witnesses over two days.

Chris Keating

Jul 3, 2024, 4:23 PM

Updated 16 days ago

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The defense for Sen. Bob Menendez rested Wednesday at the senator’s federal corruption and bribery trial in Manhattan Federal Court. Menendez stood before Judge Sidney Stein and stated he would not take the stand and testify.
In total, the defense only called five witnesses. One of those witnesses who testified on Wednesday was well-known New Jersey criminal defense attorney Michael Critchley.
One of the primary accusations against Menendez is that he and his wife Nadine Menendez took bribes from Jose Uribe - bribes that ran from expensive dinners to a $60,000 Mercedes Benz.
WATCH: Sen. Bob Menendez explains why he chose not to testify in his defense
Uribe testified earlier in the trial that he wanted Menendez to help his friend Elvis Para, who owned a trucking business and was being charged with insurance fraud.
Critchley was representing Para. In a recorded interview, Critchley stated he thought Para should have been charged civilly, and not criminally. He agreed with Menendez’s defense attorneys that the prosecution of Para risked putting 95 of his truckers out of work.
But on cross-examination, Critchley testified that the charges against Para were, “Abusive prosecution, not a selective prosecution.”
He was asked by the government, “Any reason to believe Mr. Para was prosecuted based on race?”
Critchley’s answer was, “No.”
This is significant because Menendez’s attorneys have explained that the senator reached out to then-state Attorney General Gerber Grewal about Para and with concerns that Latino truckers were being unfairly prosecuted - a practice also known as “selective prosecution.”
Critchley also said he got a call from Menendez about the case which he testified was not a "common occurrence."
While attorneys for Menendez and co-defendant Fred Dabies have rested their case, the attorneys representing Wael Hana have not. They plan on calling one more witness on Monday.
Stein ruled earlier in the day that the attorneys for Hana will only be able to call on two of five employees of ISEG Halal.
Hana is accused of paying bribes of cash and gold to Menendez, plus mortgage payments for Nadine in return for the senator’s help.
The government accuses Menendez of helping Hana so he could be awarded a monopoly on the certification of Halal meat being sent to Egypt.
One employee will say the company is qualified to take on that job despite the prosecution’s claims that Hana and his company were not.
Closing arguments will begin on Monday and then the jury will begin deliberating.

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