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Closing arguments begin in the bribery trial of Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey

Closing arguments begin in the bribery trial of Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey

NEW YORK (AP) — Closing arguments in the bribery trial of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez begin Monday.

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin in the afternoon as the trial in Manhattan federal court enters its ninth week. Prosecutors had planned for their first closing argument to last about five hours, so it was unlikely they would get through more than half of that before the jury was sent home for the day.

Prosecutors are expected to piece together evidence presented against the Democrat to support their claim that the gold bars, more than $480,000 in cash and a luxury car found during an FBI raid on Menendez’s residence in 2022 were bribes paid by three New Jersey businessmen.

In addition to the testimony of several dozen witnesses, prosecutors presented hundreds of documents, emails, text messages, phone records and other evidence.

In exchange for bribes, prosecutors say the senator took actions to protect or advance the business interests of the businessmen from 2018 to 2022. They say some of the crimes took place while Menendez held the powerful post of chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez, 70, and two of the businessmen have pleaded not guilty and are on trial together. A third businessman pleaded guilty in the case and testified against the others during the federal trial. It is the second trial the senator has faced in the past decade. None of the defendants testified.

A previous trial against Menendez in New Jersey ended in a jury deadlock in 2017.

Nadine Menendez, the senator’s 57-year-old wife, is also charged in the case, but her trial has been postponed as she recovers from breast cancer surgery. She, too, has pleaded not guilty.

In his defense, Menendez’s lawyers argued that the gold bars belonged to his wife and that the tens of thousands of dollars in cash found in Bob Menendez’s boots and jackets were the result of his habit of keeping cash at home after hearing from his family that they had fled Cuba in 1951 with only the cash they had hidden at home.

His lawyers also claimed that Nadine Menendez – who began dating the senator in 2018 and married him two years later – kept him in the dark about her financial problems and the support she had requested from the businessmen.

Menendez was born in Manhattan after the family moved to New York City, but grew up in the New Jersey towns of Hoboken and Union City, according to his sister.

Menendez has held public office continuously since 1986, first as a state representative before serving 14 years as a U.S. Congressman. In 2006, then-Governor Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to the Senate seat he vacated when he became governor.

A few weeks ago, Menendez filed his candidacy for this year’s re-election as an independent.

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