Sen. Bob Menendez's attorney calls government's case 'cherry-picked nonsense' in closing argument

NEW YORK — Gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash the FBI found in Sen. Bob Menendez's home were not given to him as a bribe, a defense attorney insisted Tuesday during closing arguments in the New Jersey senator's federal corruption trial.

While waving his arms and pacing in front of the jury box, the defense attorney, Adam Fee, used a sarcastic tone to mock the government's case as "cherry-picked nonsense."

Fee accused prosecutors of "fudging" the facts and said the story they told about Menendez is false and insufficient to convict.

"The only honest verdict I submit here is to acquit him on each count," Fee told the jury during closing arguments Tuesday in the Manhattan federal courthouse. "His actions were lawful, normal and good for the country."

Prosecutors painted a much different picture of Menendez, whom they accused of corruption on a "massive scale" and of selling his office to businessmen willing to pay.

"The buck stops here. Thousands upon thousands of bucks stop here. It's time to hold him responsible," prosecutor Paul Monteleoni said as he wrapped his closing argument on Tuesday.

While Fee said he would not blame jurors for believing "something fishy" was going on after they saw multiple photographs of the nearly $500,000 seized from Menendez's home stuffed in boots, jackets and bags, he urged the jury to resist a "knee-jerk" reaction.

"The story the prosecutors tell is that it is so weird ... it is so inherently unusual and suspicious that Bob must have known it was a bribe," Fee said. "That is false."

The defense insisted Menendez hoarded cash because of his father's experience in Cuba and that it was "common" for his wife to have gold.

The defense also attempted to exploit a weakness in the government's case: the lack of direct evidence linking Menendez to bribe payments.

"What text, what email, what document suggests to you that that story is credible?" Fee asked the jury. "They have not supplied to you any compelling evidence for the theory they have offered you."

Prosecutors claimed the cash, gold and a luxury convertible were all bribes from Menendez's co-defendants, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, and accused the senator of using his power to benefit the New Jersey businessmen and foreign governments.

All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Closing arguments for Daibes and Hana are expected to follow on Wednesday.

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