Deadly crash from 2018 involving Senator Menendez's wife gets new attention after indictment

Nadine Menendez struck and killed 49-year-old Richard Koop in Bogota, NJ in 2018

Darla Miles Image
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Deadly NJ crash involving Bob Menendez's wife gets new attention
Nadine Menendez was driving her Mercedes-Benz in Bogota, New Jersey, when she struck and killed 49-year-old Richard Koop. Jim Dolan has the latest details.

BOGOTA, New Jersey (WABC) -- A 5-year-old deadly car crash is getting renewed attention because the driver is now the wife of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, both of whom are facing federal charges alleging they took bribes.

The crash happened in December of 2018, before they were married.

Nadine Menendez was driving her Mercedes-Benz in Bogota, New Jersey, when she struck and killed a pedestrian. Police dash cam video shows her interaction with officers after the crash.

"If we can clear you from any wrongdoing, I want to get you home and comfortable and not here anymore, you know what I'm saying," a Bogota police officer says to Menendez in the dash cam video.

The crash killed 49-year-old Richard Koop, who was simply walking across the street towards his front door after taking an Uber home from a local bar.

Surveillance video shows the moment Menendez's vehicle hit Koop. Menendez denied any wrongdoing.

"I didn't do anything wrong. He jumped on my windshield," Menendez said in the dash cam video.

When police arrived, she claimed she was innocent, but said "no" when police asked if they could examine her phone, which officers often do to see if a driver was texting at the time of an accident.

The federal indictment against the senator, his wife and two co-defendants for bribery and corruption is now shedding new light on the accident investigation.

In the indictment, it reads: "On or about September 6, 2019, Menendez met with Official-2 at Menendez's Senate office in Newark, New Jersey in an attempt, through advice and pressure, to cause Official-2 to favorably resolve the investigation."

An unidentified person is heard on the dash cam video asking one of the officers if they're going to give the case to the Prosecutor's office.

"As of right now, I don't believe so. I think we're good to release her as soon as she grabs the stuff from the car," the officer responds.

The person speaking is never identified, only saying that Nadine Menendez was a friend of his friend's wife.

The same surveillance video that shows Menendez' car hitting Koop, shows her then sitting in the car for several minutes, never looking to see if the man she hit was ok. He died at the scene.

"She was barreling down the road, hit him, tossed him to the roadway, and then sat there in her car for a period of time," family attorney Sherri Breen said.

Breen represents members of Koop's family.

"She doesn't come to the aid of my client," Breen said. "She never comes anywhere near it. In fact, she drives around and avoids him."

After Nadine Menendez was cleared of criminal charges, prosecutors say they pressured co-defendant Jose Uribe to replace her totaled car with a convertible Mercedes.

When asked about the case on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Senator Menendez called it a "tragic accident."

"We obviously think about the family," he said.

Koop's family did pursue the case with Nadine Menendez's insurance company, and the family won.


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