Recent revelations surrounding a fatal 2018 car crash involving Nadine Menendez, the now-wife of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), has led the New Jersey Attorney General’s office to launch a formal inquiry. The event occurred on December 12, 2018, when Nadine Menendez, then Nadine Arslanian, struck pedestrian Richard Koop, 49, in Bogota, New Jersey. Koop’s death due to the collision has stirred emotions and raised numerous questions, particularly given that Menendez was permitted to leave the scene without undergoing drug or alcohol tests.
Nadine Menendez’s explanation of the incident provides that Koop had suddenly run across the street in front of her, giving her no time to react. Authorities reported that Koop was wearing a dark-colored jacket, had not used a crosswalk, and had consumed alcohol earlier that evening.
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Yet, amid the recent indictment against Sen. Menendez and his wife on bribery allegations, the 2018 incident has been thrust back into the limelight. The indictment brought to light that Nadine Menendez needed a new vehicle after the accident due to the damages her car sustained. Subsequently, a New Jersey businessman is believed to have purchased a $60,000 Mercedes for her. In return, it’s alleged that Sen. Menendez attempted to wield his influence in a separate criminal case.
This cascade of events has caused Koop’s family to openly question the thoroughness of the initial investigation. Rosemarie Koop-Angelicola, Richard Koop’s sister, told The Associated Press, “We’re willing to accept that it was an accident, but only with a full and proper investigation. There’s gaping holes in this.”
Furthermore, available security footage of the accident complicates matters. Capturing the aftermath, the video reveals Menendez stopping for roughly 25 seconds after the incident, then backing up her vehicle and maneuvering around Koop’s lifeless body before disappearing out of frame.
Additionally, a former top police official, Michael Mordaga, arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, helping Menendez depart and retrieve her belongings from the totaled vehicle. The fact that a high-ranking retired policeman was present and seemingly assisting Nadine Menendez has added an extra layer of intrigue and speculation.
In her defense, Nadine Menendez’s attorney, David Schertler, said that while tragic, “Nadine Menendez was not at fault, did not violate any laws, and was therefore not charged with any crimes. The fact of the accident has nothing to do with the allegations in the current indictment against Ms. Menendez.”
While the motives behind the actions of all parties involved remain to be fully revealed, the New Jersey Attorney General’s inquiry will hopefully provide a more precise understanding and perhaps a resolution to the concerns raised by the Koop family. One thing is sure: the actions and decisions of those involved, especially given their public stature, will remain under the magnifying glass of both legal authorities and the court of public opinion.
As the story unfolds, Sen. Menendez has publicly described the 2018 crash as a “tragic accident” and expressed sympathy for the deceased’s family. Nevertheless, the renewed interest and added scrutiny of the incident and the ongoing bribery case make it clear that this chapter in the senator’s life is far from closed.