Menendez co-defendants reveal strategy to beat the rap in high-stakes corruption trial

The federal government’s case in its corruption prosecution of Sen. Bob Menendez amounts to mere guilt by association, attorneys for the New Jersey Democrat’s co-defendants, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, said Thursday in their opening statements.Lawrence Lustberg, Hana’s attorney, told the jury the prosecution’s case is about criminalizing friendships, gift giving and business successes after failure. He argued the charges against his client are guilt by association, which cannot incriminate him in a case, and urged the jury to consider how much of this case is guilt by association. JURY PICKED, OPENING STATEMENTS BEGIN IN US V. MENENDEZ: ‘USE YOUR GOOD JUDGMENT’Lustberg said Hana and the senator’s wife, Nadine Menendez, “supported each other emotionally as well as financially … like brother and sister. They cared about each other.” The defense portrayed their relationship as one of mutual aid rather than corruption. Nadine helped Hana restart his life after setbacks, while Hana assisted Nadine with a loan when she faced financial difficulties. They exchanged gifts, with Hana’s becoming more lavish as his business prospered. The defense urged the jury to consider the evidence impartially, emphasizing cultural norms regarding gift giving, particularly citing the exchange of gold bars commonly practiced in the Middle East.”Listen to the evidence with an open mind,” Lustberg said.TRUMP VP CONTENDERS, SITTING SENATORS HEADLINE MENENDEZ TRIAL POTENTIAL WITNESS LISTThe defense refuted allegations of bribery, highlighting instances where Hana declined requests for additional financial assistance from Nadine Menendez. They assert loans were given, not bribes, and were repaid accordingly.Lustberg also contested the notion of a quid pro quo, emphasizing Hana’s merit in securing contracts based on his professional credentials rather than any undue influence from Menendez. US V. MENENDEZ: DEM SENATOR’S CORRUPTION TRIAL KICKS OFF WITH SURPRISING DELAYLikewise, Cesar De Castro, Daibes’ attorney, underscored the presumption of innocence his client is due by the jury.He paralleled the defense’s argument to that of Hana’s counsel, emphasizing the importance of long-standing friendships and legitimate investments rather than alleged corruption.De Castro acknowledged the exchange of gold bars and cash by his client but dismissed them as innocent gestures, not bribery. He underscored Daibes’ generosity and wealth, portraying him as a philanthropic figure who invests in his loved ones.All three alleged conspirators have pleaded not guilty, but co-defendant Jose Uribe, who will not testify this week, has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants. A trial for the senator’s wife, Nadine, who is also charged and has also pleaded not guilty, is delayed until at least July for health reasons as she battles Stage 3 breast cancer. The case may extend anywhere from 6-8 weeks.This is the second time in a decade Menendez has been accused in a federal corruption case. Menendez was charged by federal prosecutors with obstruction of justice in a superseding indictment unsealed in March relating to a multiyear alleged bribery scheme involving the governments of Egypt and Qatar.The 18-page indictment is wrapped into Menendez’s existing charges already against him and his co-defendants, including wife Nadine, for allegedly acting as a foreign agent and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to benefit the Egyptian government through his power and influence as a senator.
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