Bob Menendez and Wife Push for Separate Trials

Bob Menendez’s Wife Pushes for Separate Trials

( – Longtime Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (NJ) narrowly escaped going to prison after a jury deadlocked at the conclusion of his 2015 trial on federal corruption charges. On September 21, 2023, prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) filed an indictment against him and his wife, Nadine, on several conspiracy charges and followed up by filing superseding indictments in October 2023 and early January. Recent court filings revealed that Bob and Nadine Menendez’s legal teams are pushing for separate trials.

On January 15, Bob and Nadine Menendez both filed motions to sever the defendants for trial and an accompanying memorandum showing cause. The memos ask the court to try them separately from each other due to concerns regarding marital privilege.

Within the legal system, there are two kinds of spousal privilege. In the first instance, either person can assert that right and prevent their partner from testifying about the substance of conversations between the couple. In the other case, a spouse can agree to testify in their defense, but their party cannot claim a privilege in that instance.

Attorneys are arguing that it is likely that the senator will testify on his behalf during the couple’s trial. According to the lawmaker’s legal team, the trial may force Bob Menendez to choose between “testifying on his own behalf and exercising his spousal privilege.” This is due to the fact that the Senator would need to argue that any illegal conduct was attributed to other people, likely including his wife. Meanwhile, Nadine Menendez’s legal team is concerned that although his testimony might help his case, it could decimate her defense.

As Nadine’s lawyers explained in their memo, there’s ample precedent for the courts to sever the trials of two married defendants. Additionally, under section 14(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, severance is warranted if the possibility exists of a “serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a […] trial right of one of the defendants” or could “prevent a jury from making a reliable judgment [regarding] guilt or innocence.”

At this point, the court hasn’t indicated whether it will schedule oral arguments or when it might issue a ruling on the request.

The senator and his wife face up to 50 years in prison if a jury convicts them on all the charges. The court scheduled their trial to start in May.

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