file photo by Boyd Loving

NEWARK, N.J. – Sen. Bob Menendez said Tuesday that he expects to be exonerated of federal bribery charges, as lawyers began picking the jurors who will decide his fate in a trial set to begin next month.

“Looking forward to picking a good jury,” the New Jersey Democrat told reporters as he arrived at the federal courthouse here, flanked by his lawyers.

His arrival just before 9:30 a.m. set off a day in which U.S. District Judge William H. Walls, prosecutors, and Menendez’s defense team worked to winnow the pool of about 200 prospective jurors to the 12 men and women and four alternates who will hear the case.

Whatever verdict the panel reaches – after a trial expected to last one to two months — has the potential to reverberate far beyond the courtroom. Should Menendez be convicted, it almost certainly would mean the end of his four-decade political career in New Jersey and could dramatically shift the makeup of the Senate.