Jury selection begins in Senator Bob Menendez’s corruption trial • New Jersey Monitor

Eight months after federal authorities indicted Sen. Bob Menendez in a wide-ranging corruption scheme, his trial got off to a slow start in Manhattan on Monday, with the federal judge excusing nearly a third of the 150 potential jurors summoned.

Warning them that the trial could last into the first week of July, U.S. Judge Sidney Stein briefly summarized the allegations in the prosecution’s 18 indictments against New Jersey’s senior senator. Prosecutors say the senator accepted gold bars, cash, a luxury car and more as bribes of three businessmen to disrupt various criminal investigations and prosecutions, send military weapons and aid to Egypt, help someone make a lucrative deal with a Qatari investor, helped another gain a monopoly on meat imports to Egypt, and conspired to cover it all up as investigators closed in.

When the judge then asked which potential jurors had substantial reasons why they could not serve, dozens of hands shot up and, one by one, they were called into a separate room for questioning by Stein and two members of each of the prosecutors and defense teams.

Some of those seeking a way out cited scheduling conflicts, travel plans and work or family commitments, while others told Stein they couldn’t be honest. Some had very specific apologies. A juror told Stein that he has an extreme fear of heights (Stein’s courtroom is on the 23rd floor, with windows overlooking the city).

Another said she is traveling planned to Europe later this month and plans to see Bruce Springsteen in Spain.

Stein noted that Springsteen recently announced new tour dates.

“You could catch it, probably at Giants Stadium,” he said.

Another potential juror told Stein she is a housing attorney who gets “excited” when she hears about government corruption and called the case “triggering.”

Another said she recently became a children’s librarian in Greenwich, Connecticut, and is concerned about the impact of a lengthy trial on her job since she failed her probationary period there. That led Stein to rhapsodize that in another life he would be a children’s librarian.

“I’m telling you, that’s what I would do, children’s librarian,” he said.

Back in In the courtroom, Menendez sat alone at a defense table and stared silently, his fingers stretched out in front of him in the quiet courtroom. His co-defendants, businessman Wael Hana and real estate developer Fred Daibes, sat next to their lawyers at a separate table.

By mid-afternoon, Stein had excused 38 jurors from an initial group of 100 and called in another 50 people for questioning. About a dozen of the latter group are expected to be cleared when the first round of questioning ends on Tuesday.

It was an anticlimax to a trial that promises plenty of drama, given the more salacious parts of prosecutors’ indictment and the details that have since emerged — that the bribes generally went to and through the senator’s wife, Nadine; he probably will blame her; that he used his powerful position as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to act as a foreign agent; and that he may declare his hoarded riches as one trauma response to his father’s suicide and his family’s refugee experience.

The senator, with his lawyers at his side, flew past a gaggle of photographers and television journalists Monday morning on his way to the Daniel Patrick Moynihan federal courthouse, just two blocks from Where the trial of former President Trump is unfold.

Wearing a navy blue suit with his Senate pin on the lapel, he went through security like everyone else, taking off his belt before walking through the metal detector. In the courtroom, he smiled and chatted with his lawyers as they waited for the proceedings to begin.

Before hiring potential jurors, Stein berated attorneys who filed a flurry of motions and motions over the weekend.

“There has been too much play here, and I want it to end now,” he barked. “Everyone here must operate in good faith. I’m not sure I saw it.’

The trial resumes Tuesday morning, with attorneys expected to select a jury from the remaining hundred or so potential jurors by further questioning them about everything from their understanding of halal food to their thoughts on keeping cash at home rather than in a bank. bank account, to their perceptions. from New Jersey residents, politicians, wealthy people, immigrants, Coptic Christians, Egypt and more.