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DOJ Opposes Moving Menendez Trial to D.C.

The Justice Department fired back at Menendez. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Justice Department lawyers filed their response Tuesday to Sen. Robert Menendez's request to move his federal corruption trial from Newark, N.J., to Washington, D.C., arguing the New Jersey Democrat "ignores" the indictment's allegations he accepted things of value in his home state and demonstrates a "lack of seriousness" about the charges he faces. "This indictment describes a pattern of expensive gifts corruptly  influencing the allocation of government resources, and the case charges an egregious abuse of  public office that threatens the integrity of our federal government," the 17-page filing states in response to the senator's assertion that a trial in New Jersey threatens to disrupt the government in the nation's capital. " The integrity and efficiency  of our government will be improved by the prompt trial of this case, not diminished by it." Members of Congress have been indicted in the past, DOJ lawyers state, and they have been tried in places other than D.C. without the “severe” disruption predicted by Menendez. For example, Reps. James Traficant, D-Ohio; Mario Biaggi, D-N.Y.; and Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., were all tried and convicted back home.  

"The fact that defendant [Salomon] Melgen used his private jet to transport defendant Menendez to and from New Jersey reinforces why this case is properly venued here, and why the free trips on defendant Melgen’s private jet were so valuable," the DOJ asserts. "Defendant Menendez received the gifts in New Jersey and used them to enjoy Caribbean vacations away from his home. New Jersey does not lose venue merely because defendant Menendez chooses to vacation in the Caribbean."  

This case will involve substantive references to Union County, Passaic County, Camden County, Essex County and Teterboro — places DOJ attorneys argue a D.C. jury may not recognize as in New Jersey, but locations a New Jersey jury would know. The filing also points out that of the 120 overt acts the defendants identify as having occurred in the nation's capital, approximately 94 occurred over email.  

While Menendez's lawyers argued that "prejudicial leaks" about the case could make it difficult to find an unbiased jury in New Jersey, the prosecution says those complaints are not credible "when he has been deliberately generating so much of it."  

Menendez held a post-indictment political rally on April 1, delivered a statement on the Newark courthouse steps the next day, and  created a website designed to publicize statements favorable to his Senate office. They also point out that the "I Stand With Bob" website launched in part to raise money for his defense has an “In the News” section that promotes some of the pretrial publicity.  

Taking a direct shot at Jenny Kramer and Abbe Lowell, the top-notch defense attorneys hired to represent Menendez, DOJ notes that their law firm's website  lists them as based in New York at an address less than 15 miles from the federal courthouse in Newark. Kramer's bio says she is based “in the firm’s New York office,” while Lowell acknowledged in court that he splits his time between Washington, D.C., and New York.  

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