Federal judge rejects Sen. Menendez request to delay trial on alleged bribery conspiracy

 December 30, 2023

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), along with his wife Nadine and three business associates, were criminally indicted earlier this year by federal prosecutors in an alleged bribery scheme and face a trial that is slated to start in early May 2024.

Menendez and his co-defendants sought to have that trial date pushed back by two months but the federal judge presiding over the case just denied that request, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, the allegedly corrupt New Jersey senator has professed his innocence and refused to heed mounting calls to resign from his colleagues, and questions also remain whether he will attempt to run for re-election next year amid the federal charges and his plummeting popularity.

Menendez request for trial delay rejected

Politico reported that Sen. Menendez and his co-defendants filed a motion on Dec. 20 that sought a two-month delay to the trial start date and adjustments to other pre-trial deadlines in light of the massive amount of evidence, including millions of pages of documents, that were turned over by prosecutors as part of the discovery process.

However, while U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein agreed to modify and push back one of the pre-trial deadlines for defense motions, he denied the request concerning the other deadlines and the May 6, 2024 trial start date.

In a two-page ruling, Stein wrote that nobody objected when he initially scheduled the trial in October and that "There has been no material change since then in the parties' circumstances."

"The fact that discovery has been voluminous is consistent with the parties' stated expectations on October 2 and does not justify a two-month adjournment of the schedule," he continued. "In fact, the volume of discovery material is less than defendants were concerned it was when they sought the adjournment on December 20."

Trial date will remain the same

Judge Stein acknowledged an "inadvertent error" that led defendants to believe they had 735 terabytes of data to sift through but observed that the actual amount was "only" three terabytes, and wrote, "While three terabytes is concededly a substantial amount of data, it is but a tiny fraction of what defendants believed they had on their plates to digest and is consistent with the expectations voiced at the initial pretrial conference that discovery would be voluminous."

He also noted that the discovery materials had been presented in an easy-to-access "database load-ready format" that included "a detailed, text-searchable index identifying the material" plus repeated assurances from the government that it would provide any necessary assistance in navigating the materials upon request from the defense.

As such, Stein ruled that, except for pushing back the defense's pre-trial motion deadline to Jan. 15, all other scheduled deadlines and the May 6 trial start date would remain unchanged.

Criminally indicted in alleged bribery scheme

Sen. Menendez, his wife, and three business associates in New Jersey were federally indicted in September on bribery and conspiracy charges.

The senator and his wife are alleged to have accepted bribes -- including hundreds of thousands in cash, gold bars, a luxury vehicle, and numerous other items of value -- in exchange for him using his power and influence to intervene in various matters on behalf and to the benefit of the three associates as well as the Egyptian government and military.

Menendez has adamantly proclaimed his innocence of the bribery charges and steadfastly refused the demands from most of his colleagues that he resign in shame, though he did agree to step down from his consequential role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The New Jersey senator is nearing the end of his current term in office and has not yet announced whether he intends to run for re-election, though recent polling in the state suggests that would be a steep uphill climb as his favorability rating has plummeted to just 6% and his job approval rating has likewise fallen to a mere 11%.

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