Four defendants in the criminal bribery case against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty Wednesday in New York City to a revised indictment that alleged the senator, his wife and a third defendant conspired to use him as an agent of the Egyptian government.
The senator, who resigned his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his arrest last month, was excused from the proceedings in Manhattan federal court until Monday due to Senate business.
Among the defendants who pleaded guilty were his wife, Nadine Menendez, and businessman Wael Hana.
The senator, his wife and Hana were charged in the rewritten indictment last week with a new charge of conspiracy to use the senator as an agent of the Egyptian government even though he was prohibited from acting as such as a member of Congress.
In Wednesday's proceeding, Judge Sidney H. Stein denied a request by Hana to have a GPS monitoring device attached to her leg removed, saying it was painful and because there was no chance for her to flee.
Stein ruled after Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal opposed the request, saying Hana, a citizen of the United States and Egypt, was a flight risk because he was "deeply connected" to the Egyptian government and had more than $25 million. in assets abroad.
Hana's attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said the electronic anklet his client was required to wear was uncomfortable and "buzzes all night when he's trying to sleep."
"It's an onerous condition that we believe is simply not necessary," Lustberg said.
He said Hana expected to be exonerated in a trial scheduled for May 6 and had no interest in leaving the United States.
“He is absolutely determined to stay here,” Lustberg said.
Richenthal said prosecutors agreed to a $5 million bail package for Hana, even though the charges against him are not extraditable crimes in Egypt, because he agreed to use the GPS device and because he was willing to deposit significant property and money. in cash to support his bail.
The new charge against the trio alleges that they conspired to take a series of actions on behalf of Egypt, including for Egyptian military and intelligence officials, from January 2018 to June 2022.
In a statement last week, Menendez said he will "show my innocence" at trial. His wife said through her attorney that she denies all allegations in the indictment, while Lustberg said the allegation that Hana joined a plot to recruit Menendez as an Egyptian government agent was “so absurd.” as false.”
Prosecutors say Menendez was acting on Hana's behalf when he urged U.S. agricultural officials to stop questioning a lucrative monopoly Hana's company obtained from the Egyptian government to certify that all meat imported into that country met religious requirements.