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Prosecutors oppose Sen. Bob Menendez’s effort to delay May bribery trial until July

By LARRY NEUMEISTER (Associated Press)

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday urged a judge to reject U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s request to delay his bribery trial scheduled for next spring by two months, until July.

Prosecutors argued against the postponement a week after defense lawyers offered multiple reasons why they say a trial of the Democrat and codefendants, including his wife, should be delayed.

The senator gave up his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his September arrest.

Prosecutors said the original May 6 trial date was appropriate and drew no objections when it was announced even though circumstances were the same.

“The schedule was and remains reasonable, and in accord with the strong public interest in a speedy trial,” prosecutors wrote.

Defense lawyers cited over 6.7 million documents to be reviewed, an “unprecedented” foreign-agent charge and complex legal questions to be addressed as they asked for a delay of a trial now scheduled for May 6. They said a two-month adjournment would still bring defendants to trial within 10 months of their arrests.

Four defendants, including Menendez, have pleaded not guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge that alleges that Menendez and his wife accepted bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen who wanted the senator’s help and influence over foreign affairs.

The senator, his wife and a third defendant have also pleaded not guilty to a charge that they conspired to utilize the senator as an agent of the Egyptian government even though he was prohibited from doing so as a member of Congress.

In asking for a delay, defense lawyers wrote, “Given the complexity of this case and the seriousness of the charges at issue, the speed with which this case is proceeding is extraordinary.”

They said they plan to ask Judge Sidney H. Stein in Manhattan to dismiss the indictment on multiple grounds, including for constitutional and sufficiency reasons and because New York federal court is the wrong venue.

Prosecutors said in their letter to the judge that the voluminous amount of evidence turned over to the defense should not delay the trial because it was consistent with what the government promised at the first conference in October.

“In short, if there were a right to have multiple months to digest discovery prior to filing motions, as the defendants appear to suggest, practice in this district would look quite different. The current schedule set by the Court is expedited, but reasonable,” prosecutors said.

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