Sen. Bob Menendez’s lawyer calls prosecution’s arguments ‘nonsense’

NEW YORK — The idea that mounds of cash and gold bars found in Sen. Bob Menendez’s house were bribe money was nothing but “cherry-picked nonsense,” his lawyer said in closing arguments during his corruption trial.

Waving his arms and pacing back and forth energetically, defense lawyer Adam Fee slammed the prosecution’s arguments, saying they were “fudging.”

Prosecutors have charged the New Jersey Democrat and his wife, Nadine Menendez, in a bribery scheme with businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes in which the couple accepted gold bars, cash and car and mortgage payments for intervening in criminal cases, pressuring officials to give one of the businessmen an exclusive monopoly on halal exports to Egypt, and backing military sales for the country.

“This is a big case — but it all boils down to a classic case of corruption on a massive scale,” Manhattan Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni said as he wrapped up his closing argument on Tuesday.

Defense lawyer Fee argued that the prosecutors had not met their burden of proof to show the gold and cash were bribes, saying that the prosecution latched on to the stashes of cash because they were “provocative.”

“His actions were lawful, normal and good for his constituents and his country,” Fee said.

He explained that the cash stashed was a result of his father’s experience fleeing Cuba and said that it was expected for his wife, who loves jewelry, to have gold around the house.

The prosecution’s story also changed throughout the trial, Fee argued — for example, testimony from an FBI agent who admitted that Menendez’s blazer was hanging on the back of a bedroom door, not, as he previously said, hanging in his wife’s closet.

“They’re workshopping the story during the trial,” Fee said of the prosecution. “I would submit they’re workshopping the story during the summation.”

Fee warned the jury: “Don’t fall into the trap of buying a story — a forceful, well-told, long story.”

Menendez has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bribery and obstruction. His wife was also charged but her trial has been postponed to give her time to recover from breast cancer.

The prosecution wrapped up their summation earlier in the day.

“This is a case that all boils down to a classic case of corruption on a massive scale,” Monteleoni said as he wrapped up his closing statement on Tuesday.

He called Menendez a person who “believes the power he’s entrusted with belongs to him, not to the public, and that he’s entitled — entitled — to use it to make a payday for himself.”

“It’s time to hold him responsible,” Monteleoni said. “It’s time to hold them all responsible. It’s time to return that only fair and just verdict — the only verdict supported by evidence. That Robert Menendez, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes are held guilty.”

The defense’s closing statements will resume on Wednesday and are expected to be followed by summations from both Hana and Daibes’ lawyers, after which the government will offer a rebuttal.