(Bloomberg) -- US Senator Bob Menendez is prepared to blame his wife at his bribery trial for withholding information from him about gifts they allegedly accepted from businessmen seeking favors, a newly unsealed court document shows.

The revelation came Tuesday in a portion of a March court filing in which lawyers for the New Jersey Democrat asked a US judge to try him separately from his wife, Nadine. They are accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a car to help three businessmen and the Egyptian government. Menendez, 70, is also charged with acting as a foreign agent of Egypt.

At trial, Menendez may testify about communications he had with his wife regarding their dinners with Egyptian officials and her explanation of why two of the businessmen gave her “certain monetary items,” according to the March filing. But US District Judge Sidney Stein agreed Tuesday to a media coalition’s request to unseal a passage that showed a rift between the couple.

That passage said the explanations and communications “will tend to exonerate Senator Menendez by demonstrating the absence of any improper intent on Senator Menendez’s part.” They may also incriminate “Nadine by demonstrating the ways in which she withheld information from Senator Menendez or otherwise led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place,” according to the filing.

By saying he had no “improper intent” and he may blame her, Menendez signaled he’s prepared at his May 6 trial to break from the united front they’d previously presented. Before the passage was unsealed, Menendez had not publicly blamed his wife for his legal troubles.

An attorney for the senator and lawyers for Nadine Menendez declined to comment.

But both had asked the judge in January for separate trials, arguing they would lose rights and privileges arising from their marriage if they faced the charges together.

Sitting in a trial with his wife would “force Senator Menendez to make an impossible and prejudicial choice between testifying on his own behalf” and avoiding “being converted through cross-examination into a witness against his spouse,” according to his filing in Manhattan federal court. 

In her filing at the time, Nadine Menendez’s lawyers wrote: “We understand that Senator Menendez may wish to testify at trial and that his testimony could reveal confidential marital communications.”

But “Ms. Menendez maintains the right to assert, and will assert, privilege” as to those communications, they told the court. In a joint trial, they argued, she would be “seriously prejudiced by the admission of testimony that would not be admissible at a separate trial without her spouse.”

The judge initially denied their request for separate trials, but granted it last week because Nadine Menendez has an undisclosed medical problem that requires surgery. The senator is set for trial on May 6 with two of the businessmen, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana. The judge tentatively set a July 8 trial for Nadine.

Stein held a hearing Wednesday to discuss the timing of the trial, suggesting he may be forced to delay it. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are trying to agree to a negotiated statement of facts, known as a stipulation, that would allow Hana’s lawyer to avoid having to testify about a Menendez phone call and other events described in the indictment. If the lawyers fail to agree, Stein said he may have to disqualify the lawyer from representing Hana at trial and delay its start until at least July.

(Updates in last paragraph with developments from Wednesday hearing.)

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