Bob Menendez’s Lawyer Can’t Get Over the Claim He Rang a Little Bell to Summon His Wife

Michael M Santiago/Getty
Michael M Santiago/Getty

Sen. Bob Menendez’s defense lawyers grilled a key prosecution witness on Wednesday, repeatedly asking about a backyard meeting over an alleged bribe in which the witness claimed the New Jersey Democrat summoned his wife with a “little bell.”

Jose Uribe, a New Jersey insurance executive who pleaded guilty to bribery and obstruction charges in March, spent his fourth day on the witness stand answering questions about his alleged years-long bribery agreement with Menendez. Prosecutors allege that Uribe was one of three businessmen who bribed Menendez for years with gifts, money, and gold bars in exchange for political favors.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty to 16 federal bribery counts and his defense attorneys have blamed the senator’s wife for allegedly taking the gifts without his knowledge.

On the stand, Uribe told jurors about a September 2019 meeting in Menendez’s then-girlfriend’s Englewood Cliffs backyard to discuss targets of a state criminal investigation that he feared would interfere with his insurance and trucking companies.

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Over cigars and cognac at a patio table, Uribe said the senator rang a little bell and called out for his “mon amour” Nadine. He said Nadine was summoned to bring him a piece of paper to write down the names of the investigation targets.

“Was it bigger than my fist or smaller,” defense attorney Adam Fee grilled Uribe about the bell, according to Courthouse News.

After demanding Uribe hold up his fist to show the size of the bell, U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein intervened. “His recollection of the size of the little bell is important?” Stein asked. “OK, proceed and lower your voice.”

“When you left that night, you did not send a text message to Wael Hana, saying ‘It was super weird when Senator Menendez rang a little bell to summon Nadine,’” Fee asked Uribe, referring to another businessman who allegedly bribed Menendez.

Uribe previously said he ultimately paid a $15,000 down payment for Nadine Menendez’s 2019 Mercedes-Benz convertible and handled the car payments until June 2022 in exchange for the senator’s help to ensure his company was not affected by the criminal investigation.

Before Uribe left the witness stand on Wednesday, however, Fee once again questioned whether Menendez was “ringing a little bell” in a subsequent meeting the pair had at a restaurant.

“The little bell is on the patio, it’s not at the reception desk,” Stein interjected after sustaining an objection about another bell question.

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