“Judge rules Menendez’s prosecutors can’t show ‘critical’ evidence”


Jurors in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption case cannot see evidence prosecutors have called “critical” to part of their case, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The decision puts a hole in prosecutors’ ability to prove their central claim: that the New Jersey Democrat took bribes to help send billions of dollars of American military aid to Egypt.

U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein said prosecutors could not use evidence they hoped would show Egyptian officials were “frantic about not getting their money’s worth,” despite bribes Menendez allegedly took to help the country access billions of dollars of American military aid and arms.

Stein found the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause does not allow prosecutors to show jurors the evidence. The clause grants members of Congress a form of immunity that is mostly impenetrable in investigations relating to the official duties of lawmakers, their aides or other congressional officials.

Coincidentally, Stein based his order on a 1979 Supreme Court case about another New Jersey Democrat accused of corruption. In that case, the high court ruled the speech or debate clause barred prosecutors from introducing certain evidence against Rep. Henry Helstoski, who had been accused of accepting bribes.

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