Judge: Menendez case ‘will certainly not be better off’ in D.C., will stay in NJ

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U.S. District Judge William H. Walls ruled that the corruption case against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) will stay in New Jersey, since his lawyers’ arguments to move the case to Washington, D.C. “were mostly naked without clothes of reality.”

Robert Menendez

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“[A] trial in Newark might require Senator Menendez to spend more weeknights at his New Jersey residence than he usually does, but staying at one residence instead of another is not the kind of inconvenience this factor addresses,” Walls wrote in his 18-page ruling.

Menendez’s attorneys in the matter, Abbe Lowell and Jenny Kramer, both of Chadbourne Parke LLP – of New York/Washington, D.C. – previously argued that Menendez’s place of business is Washington, D.C. and that a trial in New Jersey would impact his senatorial duties.

Furthermore, Walls adds that “a small majority of likely trial witnesses will be located in Washington,” therefore, he agrees with the government that the majority of the witnesses will be from New Jersey, as well as that the ability to travel between Newark and D.C. is not much of an inconvenience.

“Defendants claim that Washington, D.C. is the ‘nerve center’ of this case, but the Court sees no prime nerve center there. The indictment’s allegations span states and countries, including New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Florida, the Dominican Republic, and France,” he later adds.

“Courts facing similar circumstances have rejected ‘nerve center’ arguments.”

Additionally, Walls makes mention that in the event the defense makes a pretrial motion “to dismiss the indictment under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause,” the appeal would likely take just seven months in New Jersey, as opposed to nearly 14 months in Washington, D.C.

The estimates come from median figures based on federal court management statistics.

Furthermore, Walls says its important for the trial to be held in New Jersey so that Menendez’s constituents have a clear idea of what is going on in his legal matter.

“It is suitable then that this trial be held in New Jersey so that the residents and citizens whom the defendant Menendez represents have the greater opportunity to be informed regularly, to receive news about his trial, and have an opportunity (limited) to attend the trial in state.”

“Such convenience to the New Jersey public, its citizens and residents, is a special element against transfer.”

Finally, Walls said the defendants simply did not provide enough evidence to necessitate transferring the trial to Washington, D.C.

“Facially, the defendants’ arguments to transfer this matter appeared impressive, but they did not withstand
pragmatic scrutiny in the evaluation of the Ptatt factors. Defendants’ allegations were mostly naked without clothes of reality. This case will certainly not be better off in the District of Columbia.”

A copy of Walls’ ruling can be read here.