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Judge splits Sen. Bob Menendez's case from his wife's, due to her medical issues

Rep. Andy Kim on his campaign to replace Sen. Bob Menendez
Rep. Andy Kim on his campaign to replace Sen. Bob Menendez 09:33

A federal judge in New York decided Thursday that Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez will face bribery charges in two separate trials. Nadine Menendez's trial will be delayed while she undergoes surgery to treat a medical condition.

Sen. Menendez's trial will begin May 6, as originally scheduled, and Nadine Menendez's trial is tentatively set to begin July 8. 

"This trial is going forward without Mrs. Menendez," said District Judge Sidney Stein, according to the Associated Press. "The government is going to have to try this case two times."

Nadine Menendez's attorneys said in a letter to Stein earlier this week that she is suffering from a "serious medical condition that will require a surgical procedure in the next four to six weeks as well as possibly significant follow-up and recovery treatment." 

Adam Fee, an attorney for the senator, told CBS News that they are "grateful that the court recognized that Sen. Menendez's wife needs time to focus on her health." He said his client is "looking forward to trial and proving that these charges lack merit and the prosecutors should never have brought them."

In a court filing, the government said it didn't object to the request and suggested the trial take place in July or August instead. 

But prosecutors had argued against splitting the case right now because Nadine Menendez faces charges "in all of the counts Robert Menendez is charged with," except one. Trying the case twice, they said, would result in inefficiencies, requiring them to "present the same or substantially the same case, in full, a second time." That would mean, they noted, picking a second jury, recalling "dozens of witnesses," many of whom do not live in New York, and conducting "a virtually identical trial" that presents a "risk of unfairness or inconsistency."

Sen. Menendez, his wife and three New Jersey businessman have been charged in a bribery scheme that alleges Menendez and his wife accepted cash, gold bars and other gifts in return for business and legal favors. The two stand accused of conspiring to use the senator's power as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to benefit the Egyptian and Qatari governments, and helping the businessmen who have been charged with them. 

The defendants have pleaded not guilty. 

Photo from the unsealed indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, accused of accepting bribes including gold bars.  DOJ

Menendez also stands accused of working as an unregistered foreign agent. He and his wife also face obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice charges. 

Menendez has resisted calls to resign from the U.S. Senate, despite calls from some in his own party, like Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. 

Menendez, 70, has served in the Senate since 2006. 

Robert Legare and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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