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New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez wants psychiatrist to testify about his habit of stockpiling cash

Menendez faces superseding indictment
Latest Bob Menendez indictment alleges he took gifts linked to Qatar investment 03:53

Washington — When federal investigators executed a search warrant at Sen. Bob Menendez's New Jersey home in June 2022, they found more than $480,000 in cash stashed in envelopes and coats, as well as 13 gold bars worth more than $100,000. 

They also seized nearly $80,000 from his wife's safe deposit box at a nearby bank. 

After Menendez was charged last year with corruption, he explained that for 30 years he withdrew thousands of dollars each month from his personal savings account in case of emergencies. The "old-fashioned" habit, he said, had roots in his family's experience in Cuba.

In a letter that was disclosed Wednesday, the Democratic senator's attorneys argued the habit resulted from "two significant traumatic events" in his life. 

A psychiatrist who evaluated Menendez would be expected to testify at trial that he "suffered intergenerational trauma stemming from his family's experience as refugees, who had their funds confiscated by the Cuban government and were left with only a small amount of cash that they had stashed away in their home," the senator's lawyers said last month in a letter to prosecutors. 

The psychiatrist, Karen Rosenbaum, would also be expected to testify that he "experienced trauma when his father, a compulsive gambler, died by suicide after Senator Menendez eventually decided to discontinue paying off his father's gambling debts." 

Menendez developed a mental condition, which was never treated, in response to the lifelong traumas, the letter said. The condition was redacted in the public filing.

The condition and "lack of treatment resulted in a fear of scarcity for the senator and the development of a longstanding coping mechanism of routinely withdrawing and storing cash in his home," it said. 

Photos of cash from the federal indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez.
Photos of cash from the federal indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez. Justice Department

Prosecutors, objecting to the proposed testimony, included the letter in a legal filing on Wednesday and asked the judge to prevent the psychiatrist from testifying. They asserted the psychiatrist's conclusion "does not appear to be the product of any reliable scientific principle or method" and is an attempt to gain sympathy from the jury. 

If the judge allows Rosenbaum to take the witness stand, prosecutors should be able to have Menendez examined by a separate psychiatrist, they said. 

Menendez's trial is set to begin on May 13. 

The former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was indicted in September 2023 on charges alleging he and his wife, Nadine, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes. Prosecutors said they used his power and influence to enrich and protect three New Jersey businessmen and benefit the government of Egypt.  

In the following months, superseding indictments alleged Menendez and his wife conspired to act as a foreign agent for Egyptaccepted expensive gifts in exchange for favorable comments about Qatar and obstructed the investigation into the alleged years-long corruption scheme. 

Menendez and his wife have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. 

In a court filing last month, prosecutors said at least 10 envelopes containing more than $80,000 in cash had the fingerprints or DNA of one of the New Jersey businessmen, while all of the gold bars can be linked to two of them. 

Some of the cash that didn't bear the associate's fingerprints "was packaged with money bands indicating it had been withdrawn, at least $10,000 at a time, from a bank at which Menendez and Nadine Menendez had no known depository account — indicating that the money had been provided to them by another person," prosecutors said. 

Menendez recently indicated he might incriminate his wife, who will be tried separately this summer because of "serious medical condition" that requires surgery. Menendez's lawyers said in a legal brief that the senator might testify about communications with his wife that will demonstrate "the ways in which she withheld information" from her husband "or otherwise led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place." 

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