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Jury chosen for U.S. Sen. Menendez’s corruption trial

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), arrives at Federal Court, for his bribery trial in connection with an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, in New York City, U.S., May 15, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), arrives at Federal Court, for his bribery trial in connection with an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, in New York City, U.S., May 15, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY
                                Wael Hana, arrives at Federal Court, for his bribery trial in connection with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in New York City.
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REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY

Wael Hana, arrives at Federal Court, for his bribery trial in connection with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in New York City.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), arrives at Federal Court, for his bribery trial in connection with an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, in New York City, U.S., May 15, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY
                                Wael Hana, arrives at Federal Court, for his bribery trial in connection with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in New York City.

NEW YORK >> A jury was chosen on Wednesday to determine whether Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez broke the law in what federal prosecutors have called a years-long bribery scheme to benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar, as well as himself.

Opening statements in the trial of New Jersey’s senior senator are expected to begin later in the day before U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan. The trial could last into early July.

Twelve jurors and six alternates were chosen, including an investment banker, a commercial litigator, a retired economist, a doctor, and multiple therapists. Jury selection took about 2-1/2 days, and more than 130 prospective jurors were excused.

Menendez, 70, faces 16 criminal charges including bribery, fraud, acting as a foreign agent and obstruction.

He is being tried alongside New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes. The senator’s wife Nadine Menendez, 57, is scheduled to be tried on July 8, with the delay resulting from what her lawyers called a serious medical condition.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty. The bribery trial is the senator’s second. His first ended in 2017 in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked.

CASH, GOLD AND A MERCEDES-BENZ

Prosecutors are expected to detail what they consider a complex and sordid array of corruption that lasted from 2018 to 2023.

The Menendezes are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Hana, Daibes and insurance broker Jose Uribe, in exchange for the senator’s providing political favors and aid to Egypt and Qatar.

Prosecutors have said the senator promised to help Egypt obtain arms sales and other aid, helped Hana obtain a lucrative monopoly on certifying that meat exports to Egypt conformed to Islamic law, and tried to help Daibes secure millions of dollars from a Qatari investment fund.

Menendez also was accused of trying to interfere in a federal criminal case against Daibes in New Jersey, and in state criminal cases involving two of Uribe’s associates.

Prosecutors have said FBI agents found more than $480,000 of cash in the Menendezes’ home, much stashed in clothing, closets and a safe.

Bribes also included more than $100,000 in gold bars, and a $60,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible, according to prosecutors.

Uribe pleaded guilty in March to bribery and fraud, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

While Nadine Menendez is not yet on trial, her husband’s lawyers have suggested his defense might include an effort to blame her, for withholding information and making him believe his activities were lawful.

Robert Menendez became a senator in 2006. Before being indicted, he would have been favored in his Democratic-leaning state to win a fourth full Senate term in November.

But any re-election bid now would be a long shot, reflecting recent polls of voters that show overwhelming disapproval of Menendez’s job performance.

Menendez has suggested that he would try if acquitted to run as an independent. Only 9% of voters polled in March by Emerson College Polling/PIX11/The Hill said they would prefer him to another Democrat or a Republican.

The senator has resisted calls to resign made from across the political spectrum, but gave up leadership of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his indictment last September.

Stein admonished jurors to ignore media coverage of the trial. “If something comes up,” the judge said, “switch off.”

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