Senator Bob Menendez
Bob Menendez Reuters

Embattled Senator Bob Menendez didn't testify during his defense's turn at the stand in his bribery trial, where he stands accused of taking cash, gold and a luxury car in exchange for his political influence.

Speaking to press after leaving the courthouse, Menendez said that he believed "the government has failed to prove every aspect of the case," and that therefore he didn't believe testifying made sense. He added that he expects to be found innocent by the jury.

The senator's defense called a handful of witnesses during the trial, fewer than the prosecution's 30. They include his sister and the sister of his wife Nadine, who also stands accused of taking bribes but will face a separate trial. They sought to show it isn't unusual for the couple to stash gold bars and large amounts of cash in their house.

Authorities found gold bars worth more than $100,000 and almost half a million dollars in cash during a 2022 search of Menendez's residence. The bars' serial numbers showed they had been previously owned by Fred Daibes, one of the New Jersey businessmen charged with bribing Menendez. Over ten envelopes of cash with thousands of dollars also had his fingerprints.

During the trial, the senator's older sister, Caridad González, echoed the defense's arguments by saying that keeping gold and cash was a "Cuban thing" resulting from escaping the island in 1951. She said she also found a stash of cash in her brother's house in the 1980s.

"Daddy always said don't trust the banks," Gonzalez said, according to CBS News. "If you trust the banks, you never know what can happen, so you must always have money at home."

However, the prosecution leaned on the analysis of a forensic accountant to dispute the claim, showing that Menendez withdrew about $400 in cash every few weeks between 2008 and 2022, a figure amounting to about $150,000, much less than the $480,000 found.

Russell Richardson's analysis was meant to support the Cuba argument, but the cross-examination focused on the fact that cash seized at the Menendez house was in bundles of $10,000 and had Daibes' fingerprints in the envelopes. Richardson said he didn't find records of Menendez withdrawing $10,000 at once at any given point.

Nadine Menendez's sister, Katia Tabourian, said the couple broke up in 2018 because her ex boyfriend was "creating a lot of chaos" in the relationship. She added that during the period Nadine locked the closet in which investigators found the cash and gold, and that the senator didn't have access to it. She added that it's common for her family to give such items as gifts.

The senator's lawyers have said the gold bars belonged to his wife, part of a broader strategy aimed at pinning the actions on her and saying she kept him in the dark about gifts accepted while going through financial trouble.

But the prosecution also showed that Menendez regularly searched for the value of gold during the period of their case. Menendez made such online searches between April 2019 and May 2022. They included the price of a gran, an ounce and a kilo of gold. A review of his search history showed he had never made such queries since 2008.

The searches, they say, took place while Menendez was using his political influence to help Daibes secure a $95 million investment from a Qatari investment fund in exchange for actions politically favorable to the country.

Jurors are expected to have the case by the end of next week after testimony from another defendant's witnesses and closing arguments. Daibes' legal team rested without presenting a defense.

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