A letter issued by the United States Attorney's Office in Philadelphia handling the investigation serves as a "de facto exoneration," according to a former high-ranking federal prosecutor in the Newark, NJ office of the United States Attorney. Such letters are rarely issued to former investigation targets or their counsel; an intrepid investigative attorney can unearth messages equivalent in sum and substance to an "exoneration" in letters between the federal prosecutor handling an investigation and the federal judge in charge of the matter.
The investigation allegedly centered on Menendez's procurement of federal funds for a Hudson County nonprofit organization which then rented commercial space in buildings owned in part by Menendez between the years 1994 and 2003. Unless this rental arrangement or other activities related to the investigation and considered an overt act in furtherance of a crime continued past 2003, or the statute of limitations was tolled (which "targets" of investigations sometimes are asked to agree to in order to avoid a prompt indictment), the applicable five-year statute of limitations would have expired close to three years ago. Subpoenas to the Hudson County nonprofit were issued in the fall of 2006, on the eve of Menendez's last re-election, by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark then headed by now-Governor Chris Christie.
Menendez is not the only New Jersey elected official to be the subject of such an exonerating letter. Just weeks ago, former state senator Joseph Doria -- from whose home FBI agents infamously carried empty boxes suggesting the removal of incriminating evidence in a shameless July 2009 photo op the same week that the Bid Rig arrests resulting from the Solomon Dwek tapes, that must have been designed to drive Doria to resign or plead guilty -- received a similar exonerating letter.
The letters have been issued, but the reputations do not quite recover. The damage has been done.
Eric Dixon is a New York attorney who handles investigative matters, other confidential and sensitive matters, and business due diligence on behalf of business and political clients and individuals. Mr. Dixon is available for inquiry or further comment at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com, and by phone at 917-696-2442.