First full week of Sen. Menendez’s federal corruption trial comes to a close

Jurors have been sitting through a deliberate and often tedious presentation of the evidence by federal prosecutors.

Chris Keating

May 17, 2024, 9:58 PM

Updated 27 days ago


The jury in the bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is finishing its first full week of work. They have already heard opening arguments and testimony from an FBI agent who led the search of the senator’s home in 2022.
Jurors have been sitting through a deliberate and often tedious presentation of the evidence by federal prosecutors, which includes the presentation of gold bars and $480,000 in cash which were stashed away in the Menendez home.
The jury has also seen how the defense – during cross-examination - is trying to point out that the senator didn’t know that the gold was in the house.
Jurors have now seen photos of the 11 gold bars weighing 1 ounce each and two bars weighing 1 kilogram, plus cash found in the Englewood Cliffs home belonging to the senator and wife Nadine. Jurors even had a chance to hold it.
The man who opened that locked closet was FBI agent Aristotelis Kougemitros, who told jurors investigators found $100,000 in a duffel bag, thousands of dollars in jackets belonging to the senator and stacks of cash in plastic and paper bags.
"The amount of cash that we began to discover was so voluminous that I directed the team that we would no longer be photographing any of the cash; we would be seizing the cash, because I believed it was evidence potentially of a crime," said Kougemitros.
On cross-examination of the FBI agent, the defense tried to prove that some of that gold and cash was found in a locked closet belonging to Nadine Menendez.
That line of questioning goes to the argument from defense attorney Avi Weitzman that Sen. Menendez, “Did not know of the gold bars that existed in that closet."
He would say the couple led "separate lives,” adding, "The evidence will show that Nadine was hiding her financial challenges from Bob.”
It should be noted that attorneys for the two men accused of providing that gold and cash have said they were gifts and that the senator provided nothing in return.
Federal prosecutors will have to prove there was a quid-pro-quo.
When week two of the trial starts on Monday, the jury is expected to hear more from witnesses for the prosecution.

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