Recording raises new questions about police response to fatal crash involving Sen. Bob Menendez’s wife

Police dashcam video and audio recordings are raising new questions about how local police and Bergen County prosecutors handled the 2018 fatal crash investigation involving a woman who soon married New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez. 

Dashcam video from the scene that evening in Bogota, N.J., shows Nadine Arslanian Menendez saying that she done nothing wrong. At one point, she also asks an officer about the pedestrian who she had just struck and killed, “Why was the guy in the middle of the street?”

Several sources familiar with the matter are asking why a retired chief of detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office showed up at the crash scene to apparently speak to police and assist Nadine Menendez. 

The sources pointed to one section of the police dashboard video footage where retired the retired chief, Michael Mordaga, is heard asking police what is going on. An officer replies, “That’s what we are gathering now … [it’s] dark… her breath, ya know?”

Police reports have suggested there was no signs that Nadine Arslsanian Menendez was driving while impaired at the time of the crash. Police reports also show that no Breathalyzer or other tests were performed on Menendez that night.

“One can imagine police ordering someone to at least perform field sobriety tests just based on those words and observations alone,” said NBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos. 

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A police officer questions Nadine Arslanian after a car crash where a pedestrian was killed, in Bogota, N.J., in 2018.Bogota Police Dept

Investigators said the victim, Richard Kopp, 49, had jaywalked after drinking with friends on the night that Nadine Menendez hit him with her Mercedes. 

As NBC News first reported, the state attorney general is now investigating whether police and Bergen county prosecutors handled the fatal crash scene appropriately. Nadine Menendez’s connection to the death of Richard Koop has come to light only this week.

Mrs. Menendez’s lawyer, David Schertler, said in a statement, “This is a case of a tragic accident, but Nadine Menendez was not at fault, did not violate any laws, and was therefore not charged with any crimes. Schertler added, “We are confident that any ‘re-opening’ of an investigation into the accident will confirm that conclusion.”  

Several sources said public integrity division investigators from the state attorney general’s office want to know who asked Mordaga to come to the crash scene. 

Mordaga did not return several calls for comment.

A source close to Nadine Menendez said she was not drinking before the crash. But it’s still unclear who might have called Mordaga to the scene.

“The optics of a former police chief or retired officer coming out to an accident scene and intervening on behalf of one of the people involved in the accident — they just aren’t good,” Cevallos said.

New Jersey attorney general records show that one of the Bogota officers on scene, Michael LaFerrera, was later suspended for roughly 6 months for his handling of a separate DUI-related case. LaFerrera, union officials and other Bogota police representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Matthew Platkin, whose investigators questioned prosecution and police staff on Thursday about the handling of the accident, had no comment 

Questions about the crashed Mercedes came to light in the midst the sprawling bribery indictment against Bob Menendez, his wife and three businessmen.

The FBI accuse Bob and Nadine Menendez of asking businessman Jose Uribe for help paying for a new Mercedes. In exchange, the senator allegedly tried to intervene with a state attorney general investigation that Uribe was concerned about. All of the individuals charged in the bribery case deny wrongdoing.

Nadine Menendez’s lawyer denied the bribery case can be tied to the fatal crash, saying “the fact of the accident has nothing to do with the allegations in the current indictment against Ms. Menendez.” 

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