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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is bringing in more legal heavyweights to help with his defense against a federal indictment from September that alleges he took bribes in the forms of cash, a Mercedes-Benz convertible and gold bars.
The 69-year-old Menendez tapped Robert “Gold Bars” Luskin to represent him pro hac vice, or outside of his typical jurisdiction, according to Nov. 17 court filings with the Southern District of New York.
The request for Luskin to serve as the senator’s counsel has yet to be approved by US District Judge Sidney Stein, who is presiding over the case, the filings show.
Luskin earned the unflattering moniker after accepting more than $500,000 in gold bars as payment for legal fees while appealing the 1993 conviction of Stephen Saccoccia.
Saccoccia, a Rhode Island-based precious metals dealer, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for Colombian drug cartels in the 1980s — and was slapped with a 660-year federal prison sentence.
Luskin also became the first male lawyer to wear an earring while arguing a case before the Supreme Court in 1995, the Washington Post reported at the time.
Then-Rhode Island US Attorney Sheldon Whitehouse, now a US senator, went after Luskin following his failed appeal of Saccoccia’s conviction, with Whitehouse accusing the attorney of having accepted laundered funds.
That case settled in 1998 after Luskin agreed to return $245,000 in fees to the government.
Reps for Whitehouse’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Luskin also did not respond to a request for comment.
Whitehouse said at the time that Luskin had engaged in “willful blindness” for having pocketed the gold bars, according to the Daily Beast, which first reported on Friday’s filings.
Saccoccia’s most recent appeal of his sentence was rejected by a federal appeals court in August 2021, with the panel writing that he “holds a special place in the pantheon of money launderers.”
In the 1980s, while working at the Department of Justice, Luskin helped supervise the FBI’s Abscam sting operation, which ensnared more than 30 federal, state and local politicians on corruption charges.
He rose to prominence while serving as Republican strategist Karl Rove’s defense lawyer after the CIA leak scandal, which unmasked Valerie Plame as a covert operative in 2003.
Menendez pleaded not guilty last month to all charges stemming from his indictment, including additional counts of acting as an agent of the Egyptian government while serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true,” he said in an Oct. 12 statement.
The indictment details a bribery web involving favors the Democratic senator and his wife, Nadine, performed on behalf of three wealthy New Jersey businessmen — taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts.
The Garden State Democrat also allegedly lobbied to unfreeze $300 million in military aid for Egypt while serving as head of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.
The fingerprints of a driver for one of the businessmen were later found on an envelope in Menendez’s home that contained thousands of dollars in cash, according to federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors also say Menendez googled “kilo of gold price” after receiving roughly $150,000 in gold bars from the associates.
Veteran Democratic attorneys Marc Elias and Abbe Lowell previously represented Menendez during an earlier corruption case, which alleged the senator took almost $1 million in private jet excursions and lavish vacations from a Florida ophthalmologist in exchange for obtaining visas for the doctor’s foreign girlfriends.
In 2017, the jury deadlocked on those charges, resulting in a mistrial.
Menendez had previously been represented by other defense lawyers from Lowell’s firm of Winston & Strawn.
Lowell himself is currently representing first son Hunter Biden on charges of having violated federal gun laws.