Federal judge rejects Menendez request for delay in corruption trialDecember 28, 2023
A federal judge on Thursday rejected a request from Sen. Bob Menendez’s legal team to delay the start of his corruption trial by two months.
Attorneys for Menendez had sought the delay, citing the “unprecedented foreign-agent charge against a sitting Senator” and having to sift through millions of documents from discovery. Federal prosecutors said the delay request was “unwarranted,” noting that the start date was not opposed when it was announced in October and that nothing had changed since then.
U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein said in an order Thursday that the extension was not needed.
“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,” Stein wrote. “In fact, the volume of discovery material is less than defendants were concerned it was when they sought the [two month delay] on December 20.”
Stein wrote that an “inadvertent error made by a discovery vendor” misled Menendez’s legal team into believing it had received 735 terabytes of discovery documents when in fact it received three terabytes. In a Dec. 20 filing, attorneys for Menendez said they received “over 6.7 million documents (over 15 million pages)” in discovery from the government, which they said amounted to 735 terabytes.
“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,” Stein wrote.
Attorneys for Menendez did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Menendez’s trial is scheduled to begin May 6. His legal team sought to have the trial begin in early July.
Menendez has been charged by federal prosecutors for using his office to benefit New Jersey businesspeople and the government of Egypt in exchange for gold bars, cash and a luxury vehicle. Federal prosecutors also allege that Menendez acted as a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt when he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position from which he has since stepped down.
Menendez is charged in the case alongside his wife and three New Jersey businesspeople. Menendez has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has maintained he is innocent.
The decision to delay the trial could carry some political implications. Menendez has not stated whether he plans to run for reelection, but a trial beginning in May would come during the heat of the Democratic Senate primary in early June. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last month had Menendez’s approval rating at 11 percent.
First lady Tammy Murphy — who has the support of key Democratic power brokers in the state — is running to replace Menendez. Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) is also running in the Democratic primary.
Christine Serrano Glassner, a New Jersey mayor with ties to former President Donald Trump, is running on the Republican side.