A New Troubling Twist in the Menendez Corruption Scandal

AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

It’s hard to imagine Sen. Bob Menendez’s (R-N.J.) corruption scandal getting any worse, but for a guy who’s managed to get away with a lot over the years, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised that there’s always that potential.


So here’s the latest. In 2018, before marrying Sen. Menendez, Nadine Arslanian was involved in a fatal car accident. According to police reports, Arslanian’s Mercedes-Benz struck and killed 49-year-old Richard Koop, who was reportedly jaywalking at the time. The incident curiously did not lead to any charges, nor did it receive media attention at the time.

However, The New York Times has brought new scrutiny to this matter, and the incident suddenly has significance in relation to the federal indictment against the senator and his wife.

“What happened that night in the borough of Bogota outside New York City was not reported for years, leaving witnesses and Mr. Koop’s family to wonder if the fatal collision was deliberately kept quiet. But now, nearly five years later, the episode adds a startling dimension to a scandal that has shaken American politics and raised new questions about the senator at its center,” The New York Times reported. “The revelation helps fill in an important narrative gap around one of the most blatant bribes alleged in a 39-page federal indictment unveiled last month against Ms. Menendez, her powerful husband, and three businessmen.”


Here’s how.

Prosecutors said in those charging papers that Ms. Menendez needed a car so badly after a December 2018 “accident” that the senator, a Democrat, was willing to try to suppress an unrelated criminal prosecution for a New Jersey businessman in exchange for a $60,000 Mercedes convertible. The fatal collision with Mr. Koop on Dec. 12 matches prosecutors’ terse description of the December 2018 crash.

Interviews, police reports, dashcam footage, audio of 911 calls and other records reviewed by The New York Times also raise additional questions about the inquiry into the collision itself, which was reported earlier Wednesday by The Record of New Jersey. The questions include whether Mr. Menendez, a senator long accused of using the levers of government to help his friends, may have made an attempt to intervene.

There were reasons for suspicion at the time. One witness at the scene said in an interview that officers appeared to know who Ms. Menendez was and treated her with striking deference. Police recordings captured the voice of a man who identifies himself as a retired police officer from a nearby department. He can be heard saying he came to the scene as “a favor” to a friend whose wife knew Ms. Menendez.


Police reports indicate that Arslanian left the accident scene without undergoing drug or alcohol testing, and she declined to surrender her phone for investigation. The victim’s family expressed their dissatisfaction with the handling of the case, stating that it gave them the impression that the incident had been “very silently swept under the rug.”

Recent polling shows that New Jersey Democrats, after supporting and reelecting Menendez for years, appear to have turned against him. He is now polling in single digits in the Democratic primary.

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