After reading an argument from the Chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, Raymond Hulser, imploring U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial to stay in New Jersey, the senator’s lawyers are still calling for the court proceedings to take place in Washington, D.C. – citing the 2008 case of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Through his attorneys Abbe Lowell and Jenny Kramer, both of Chadbourne Parke LLP – of New York/Washington, D.C. – Menendez argues that Hulser’s argument was largely flawed based on the federal government’s prosecution of Senator Stevens in 2008.
Stevens was on trial for failing to report that an oil services firm remodeled his house.
The case was tried in Washington D.C. and although Stevens was found guilty, the charges were dismissed after it was discovered that two prosecutors in the case engaged in “reckless professional misconduct” that included withholding witness testimony (h/t The New York Times).
“Although Senator Stevens was from Alaska, PIS filed charges in Washington, D.C. When Senator Stevens filed a motion to transfer venue to his home state of Alaska, PIS opposed the motion,” Lowell and Kramer wrote in a 16-page letter to U.S. District Judge William H. Walls on Tuesday.
“In opposing transfer away from D.C., PIS claimed that, as a sitting United States Senator,“there can be no legitimate dispute that for all practical purposes, defendant Stevens lives and works in the District of Columbia.”
“… PIS further argued that the case belonged in D.C. because Senator Stevens received ‘multiple solicitations for official acts”that were “sent to addresses and computer servers located in the District of Columbia,’ and because a trial in the District would allow the Senator “to maintain close contact with his Senate office.”
Lowell and Kramer also go after the PIS for claiming that the trial must take place in New Jersey since that’s where Menendez lives and serves as a Unites States senator.
“Obviously Senator Menendez ‘concedes’ he must be a resident of New Jersey in order to represent the State of New Jersey in the United States Senate— any sixth grade civics student would concur with the government’s analysis of the Constitution’s residency requirement.”
” … In this case, Senator Menendez’s duties and responsibilities as a Senator require him to be physically present in Washington, D.C. for the majority of the work week. Washington, D.C. is thus his ‘location’ for Platt purposes.”
The criminal defense attorneys for Menendez also clearly took umbrage with Hulser accusing them of misrepresenting where the witnesses in the case reside.
” … 43 of 71 likely witnesses (or 60.5 percent) work or reside in Washington, D.C., whereas only 9 of 71 (or 12.7 percent) work or reside in New Jersey.
“… This is precisely the type of case where the majority of witnesses (61 percent) are located in one district (Washington, D.C.) and the government is seeking to try Defendants in another district (New Jersey). If the trial takes place in New Jersey, almost 90 percent of the witnesses will be required to travel.”
Near the end of their argument, Menendez’s legal team states that changing the venue of a court case doesn’t automatically mean the case will be delayed.
“The government theorizes that a transfer of venue would result in a later trial date and delayed motions practice, and appears to assume— without any supporting data— that no active or senior Judge in the District of Columbia is available to hear a complex criminal case on the same schedule tentatively adopted by the Court.”
Lowell and Kramer also add that a trial in Washington D.C. would make it easier to select a jury that doesn’t have “staunch supports or detractors” of Menendez.
A hearing date on the venue transfer is set for June 16 at 11 a.m., while another court document reveals that pretrial motions are due on July 20, with responses due on August 24.
Furthermore, reply briefs are scheduled for September 14, with oral arguments set for September 17. Most importantly, the trial is currently scheduled to commence on October 13 at 10 a.m.
A copy of Lowell and Kramer’s letter to Walls can be read here.