Trial of Sen. Bob Menendez takes a weeklong break after jurors get stuck in elevator

NEW YORK — The trial of Sen. Bob Menendez was paused for a week Tuesday after federal court jurors, treated to a brick-by-brick version of the prosecutor’s bribery case, became stuck in an elevator a day after emerging from their usual meeting room were forced out due to flooding.

Judge Sidney H. Stein said jurors were stuck in an elevator for several minutes during what was supposed to be a late-afternoon 10-minute recess that lasted nearly half an hour.

The elevator malfunction came as jurors were shuttled between floors to a conference room because the carpet in their usual conference room, just outside the courtroom, was found to be soaked Monday after someone left the sink taps open over the weekend. As the judges left that day, Stein humorously warned them, “Don’t all get into one elevator.”

The crash came on a day when prosecutors were slowly trying to build their case against the Democrat with evidence they hoped would score points with jurors against Menendez and his two co-defendants — two New Jersey businessmen the government says paid him bribes , consisting of gold bars. , hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and a car.

Lawyers for Menendez, 70, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and the businessmen say their clients are not guilty and that the government is trying to turn common interactions between a politician and his constituents into crimes.

Among the witnesses Tuesday was a man who worked for the State Department during the years when prosecutors say Menendez used his powerful position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to do favors for Egypt so he could stem the flow of bribes. could keep on track.

Joshua Paul, who now works as a consultant for a nonprofit, testified that the commission and its chairman have extraordinary powers over the State Department because it controls its leadership, dictates how it functions and confirms ambassadors around the world.

After his arrest last fall, Menendez was forced to resign from office, although he has resisted calls to leave the Senate.

Prosecutors say Menendez did things that benefited Egyptian officials so he could receive bribes in exchange for clearing the way for a co-defendant to secure a lucrative monopoly to certify meat shipped from U.S. slaughterhouses to Egypt exported complied with Islamic dietary requirements.

In addition to bribery, extortion, fraud and obstruction of justice, Menendez is also accused of acting as a foreign agent of Egypt.