Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., his wife and two business associates all pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court on bribery and extortion charges on Wednesday. Menendez’s attorney, Seth Farber, said in court: “We ask you to enter a plea of not guilty.”
Escorted into court by U.S. Marshals, Menendez took a seat at the defense table separate from his wife Nadine, who sat with her own lawyers. The senator was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to have no contact with his co-defendants besides his wife. He was also told to have no contact with Senate staff who have personal knowledge of the facts of the case unless accompanied by a lawyer. Menendez was also ordered to turn over his personal passport and can only go on foreign trips in conjunction with official Senate business. Menendez’s wife, Nadine, was released on $250,000 bond secured by her house in Englewood Cliffs, New York, and was allowed to only travel in the New York-Washington corridor or to see family in Florida.
On Monday, Menendez held a press conference proclaiming his innocence, stating that cash found in his jacket, his closet and in other parts of his home were the results of legitimate withdrawals he makes from his savings account, what he likened to “old fashioned” paranoia of the son of a Cuban immigrant.
Mendez did not address the gold bars and other forms of alleged bribery federal prosecutors said he took in exchange for wielding political influence on behalf of three associates — Wael Hana, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe. Hana allegedly paid off Menendez, including giving a no-show job to the senator’s wife, to ensure he could maintain a lucrative exclusive contract to provide halal meat to Egypt. The other two businessmen charged in the case, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe, are accused of paying Menendez in exchange for his help with separate criminal cases they faced. Hana returned to the United States on Tuesday, and was formally placed under arrest and brought to court for an initial appearance.
Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his post as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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