Jury selected in corruption case

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U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., arrives in federal court in New York City for his bribery trial in connection with an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, May 14, 2024.

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

Prosecutors and defense attorneys selected a full jury Wednesday in the federal bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez.

The 18-member jury – 12 jurors and six alternates – was chosen behind closed doors on the third day of the Democratic lawmaker’s trial at US District Court in Manhattan.

Federal prosecutors will make opening statements first, followed by attorneys for Menendez and two New Jersey businessmen also charged in the sweeping corruption case.

Two arduous days in the courtroom had passed without a single juror present for the trial.

Menendez, 70, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused in the case of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes — including bags of cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible — in exchange for the senator’s official actions.

Menendez, who until the indictment chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his wife are accused of using his political power to enrich three businessmen and benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Due to medical problems she recently experienced, Nadine Menendez will later be tried separately from her husband and the two other defendants in this trial, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes.

A third New Jersey businessman charged in the case, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty in March and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Nadine Menendez has not been in court with her husband. During the first two days of jury selection, he sat alone for long, silent periods while his lawyers met with potential jurors in a side room.

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Senator Bob Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, leaves Manhattan federal court in New York City, October 2, 2023.

David Dee Delgado | Getty Images

Court records show Menendez’s attorneys could try to convince the 12-person jury that he is innocent arguing that his wife is to blame for withholding information and making the senator believe their actions were lawful.

The first two days of the trial were largely taken up by a lengthy process of individually questioning anyone who said they could not serve as a juror.

Dozens of people in the courtroom had raised their jury cards to potentially disqualify themselves from the trial, which could last seven weeks or more.

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By Tuesday evening, Stein had cut the number of potential jurors in half to 75.

Judge Sidney Stein then began questioning individual jurors in open court about their occupations, families, living arrangements, media habits, hobbies and interests.

Fred Daibes arrives in federal court for his bribery trial in connection with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, DN.J., in New York City, May 14, 2024.

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

Prospective jurors identified themselves only by their assigned number, but occasionally gave very personal answers.

One of them, a self-described podcast junkie, said she has called into New York public radio veteran Brian Lehrer’s talk show “a million times.”

“He knows my voice,” the woman added.

Another prospective juror told the judge that he lives alone and that his wife and son recently died.

A man who works as a lawyer for a bank told Stein that he had previously contributed to Menendez’s political campaign.

The donation was made after a request from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to the man, who said he had made “dozens” of similar contributions over the years.

AIPAC Menendez endorsed in January, two months before the senator announced he would not do so enter the Democratic primary in a re-election bid but left the door open to act as an independent.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Wael Hana’s name.

This is news development. Check back later for updates.

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