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Judge denies Sen. Menendez bid to suppress gold bars, other evidence seized


Judge denies Sen. Menendez bid to suppress gold bars, other evidence seized

Mar 04, 2024 | 6:02 pm ET
By Nikita Biryukov
Judge denies Sen. Menendez bid for a hearing to probe search warrants
Judge Sidney H. Stein finds "no basis to infer" omissions in search warrant filings would have undercut probable cause, as Sen. Menendez claimed. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

A federal judge Monday denied a hearing to probe the legality of search warrants entered against Sen. Bob Menendez and a co-defendant, finding the two had failed to show prosecutors had intentionally misstated material facts when securing the warrants.

Menendez, who is accused of bribery and acting as a foreign agent, had asked U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein to order a hearing to review five search warrants for his home, email and iCloud accounts, and cellphones, arguing some were unconstitutionally overbroad and others should not have been issued because prosecutors withheld exculpatory information.

The search of Menendez’s home turned up gold bars and cash that prosecutors say Menendez and his wife, Nadine, received as bribes.

Regarding the search warrants, the senator’s attorneys claimed authorities misrepresented an interview translated from Arabic in an affidavit that said Nadine Menendez would receive a ring and a Mercedes Benz for the senator’s intercession in a state insurance fraud case.

The attorneys argued Menendez had no knowledge of the alleged scheme and was swindled by Wael Hana, the co-defendant, but the judge was unconvinced, finding the affidavit’s summary aligned with the interview transcript.

“In the recorded conversation with the [confidential source], the Hana Associate states, ‘This is about a person who had a story here and Bob resolved it for him. … The girl is supposed to receive items, okay a car and a ring, and these items are for $100,000,’” Stein wrote.

Other statements relayed by the confidential source, including claims that Egyptian intelligence had lost faith in Hana and sought to cut ties with him over his use of alleged bribe funds for personal expenses, did not undercut the bribery allegation and did not need to be included in the government’s search warrant filing, the judge said.

“Hana allegedly taking a portion of the bribery funds for his own use rather than using the full amount of the bribe to purchase a ring and car for Nadine does not undermine probable cause to believe that a bribe of some amount was indeed agreed upon,” Stein wrote.

The judge added that Egyptian intelligence’s views on Hana also left probable cause intact.

The court rejected the senator’s arguments that the state’s omission of denials from a series of individuals obliquely tied to the scheme — the state criminal defendant and the jeweler who allegedly sold the ring purportedly used as a bribe, among others — destabilized the search warrant applications.

Denials from those individuals, the beneficiaries of an alleged bribery scheme, were not enough to overcome other evidence supporting the search warrants, Stein wrote, further finding “there was no basis to infer” the omissions were intentional or recklessly misleading.