Live Updates: Menendez Defense Presents Closing Argument in Bribery Trial

Nicholas Fandos

The government wrapped up its closing argument in the bribery case against Senator Robert Menendez on Tuesday afternoon.Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Prosecutors finished their closing argument against Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon, urging the jury to return “the only fair and just verdict” and convict him on charges that he sold out his office for gold bars, piles of cash and a flashy convertible.

Over the course of three hours, Paul Monteleoni, a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, walked through 18 charges in exhaustive detail, displaying dozens of text messages, photos and snippets of witness testimony. But he insisted that the sum was exceedingly simple.

“Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees,” Mr. Monteleoni urged the jurors. “It all boils down to a classic case of corruption on a massive scale.”

Lawyers for Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, were scheduled to give a final rebuttal later Tuesday, the second of what could be three days of closing arguments, including from the lawyers for two New Jersey businessmen who are also on trial.

On Monday, Mr. Monteleoni spent nearly two hours rehashing the case’s central bribery charges, arguing that the senator had made himself an agent of Egypt in exchange for the gold bars and a lucrative no-show job for his wife, Nadine Menendez.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor widened the aperture to include accusations of wrongdoing closer to home.

He recounted testimony from Jose Uribe, a New Jersey businessman who has pleaded guilty in the case. He previously told the jury that he had purchased a new Mercedes-Benz convertible for Ms. Menendez in exchange for the senator’s help quashing a criminal prosecution.

“You know I saved your ass twice,” Mr. Uribe remembered Mr. Menendez telling him over dinner. “Not once, but twice.”

The prosecutor laid out evidence that he said showed Mr. Menendez meddling in government affairs to help two other businessmen, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, standing trial along with him.

Mr. Menendez is accused of pressuring the Department of Agriculture in an attempt to protect Mr. Hana’s business and ensure it could pay his wife a paycheck, and trying to install a U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey who could protect Mr. Daibes in exchange for one-kilogram bars of gold and envelopes of cash.

Mr. Monteleoni also revisited other documents that he said showed Mr. Menendez and his wife had attempted to cover their tracks once they realized they were under federal scrutiny, leading to obstruction of justice charges.

The prosecutor also tried to blow a hole in one of Mr. Menendez’s most proactive defenses. The senator’s lawyers have asserted at trial that he hoarded cash for years to protect it from banks. “It’s a Cuban thing,” his sister testified.

But the prosecutor said the explanation only accounted for a fraction of the cash found in the senator’s home, and failed to explain why some of it was found in envelopes bearing Mr. Daibes’ fingerprints.

“Friends do not give friends envelopes stuffed with $10,000 in cash just out of friendship,” he said.

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