'Bridgegate' names can remain secret:
U.S. appeals court
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[September 08, 2016]
By Jonathan Stempel and Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals
court on Wednesday rejected an effort by news media to force prosecutors
in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal known as
"Bridgegate" to disclose the names of unindicted co-conspirators.
Reversing a lower court ruling, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Philadelphia found no right of public access under the U.S.
Constitution's First Amendment or the common law to a list of people
implicated but not criminally charged.
The 3-0 decision came one day before jury selection was scheduled to
begin in the trial of two former allies of New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie who are accused of arranging the September 2013 shutdown of
bridge access lanes in Fort Lee, New Jersey, causing several days of
"Public access to judicial documents and court proceedings is a
respected tradition and important legal principle, but it has bounds,"
Circuit Judge Kent Jordan wrote.
While it may make sense to release the names at trial, "that time is not
here yet," he added.
Prosecutors accused William Baroni, a former deputy executive director
of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne
Kelly, a former Christie deputy chief of staff, of closing lanes to
punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing the
successful re-election of Christie, a Republican.
Disclosing the list could have shown whether other Christie allies
sought political payback by snarling traffic.
Another former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, is cooperating
with prosecutors after pleading guilty.
Christie has denied involvement, but the scandal helped erode his
once-high approval ratings. He ran unsuccessfully this year for the
White House. His office had no immediate comment.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark had in May ordered
disclosing the names of unindicted co-conspirators, but a "John Doe" on
the list appealed, fearing reputational harm.
[to top of second column]
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference
in Trenton, New Jersey March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Bruce Rosen, a lawyer for media companies including ABC, the
Associated Press and the New York Times, in an email said his
clients are disappointed, and no decision on an appeal has been
Doe's lawyer, Jenny Kramer, in an email said she was gratified that
the appeals court "prevented disclosure of highly prejudicial
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey, who
supported Doe, declined to comment.
Baroni and Kelly have pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, civil rights
deprivation and conspiracy charges, and received the list of names
to help prepare for trial. Their lawyers did not immediately respond
to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Chizu
Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)
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