Judge refuses to dismiss 'Bridgegate'
complaint against New Jersey's Christie
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[January 13, 2017]
By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey judge on
Thursday refused to dismiss a citizen's criminal complaint against
Governor Chris Christie over the "Bridgegate" scandal but ordered a
lower court to review it to determine whether the case should continue.
Bergen County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol rejected Christie's
request to toss the complaint outright. But she agreed with both
Christie's lawyers and county prosecutors that a lower court judge
erroneously denied the governor's attorney an opportunity to participate
in a prior hearing in October.
The complaint was filed in September by Bill Brennan, a retired
firefighter and activist who recently announced he would run for
governor this year.
Brennan accused Christie of knowing about a plot to close lanes at the
George Washington Bridge in 2013 in order to punish a local mayor for
failing to endorse Christie's re-election bid.
Two former Christie allies were convicted last year of orchestrating the
plot, and U.S. prosecutors introduced evidence at trial suggesting the
governor was at least aware of the scheme. Christie, who has not been
charged by prosecutors, has steadfastly denied that he knew about the
closures at the time.
Roy McGeady, a municipal judge in Fort Lee, where Brennan's complaint
was filed, found probable cause to allow the case to proceed after a
hearing at which Brennan testified. Christie's lawyer was not permitted
to argue or cross-examine, McGeady said, because the governor was not a
defendant until probable cause was established.
That, Mizdol said on Thursday, was wrong under the law and requires a
"Defendant was improperly denied counsel at a critical stage," she
A spokesman for Christie did not respond to a request for comment.
[to top of second column]
Republican presidential candidate Governor Chris Christie speaks to
supporters in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. January 31, 2016.
REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo
"Christie's attorneys committed an epic strategic blunder in moving
to dismiss these charges," Brennan said in an email. "They lost in
Superior Court and the are losing in the court of public opinion;
the truth will prevail."
It was not immediately clear when the new hearing would take place.
If McGeady again finds probable cause, the case moves to the Bergen
County Prosecutor's office to determine whether there is enough
evidence to warrant filing charges against Christie.
Legal experts have said the governor is unlikely to face criminal
But the scandal has been a political disaster for Christie, who
abandoned his own presidential bid and was passed over by U.S.
President-elect Donald Trump for an administration post.
Christie is barred from running for re-election this year due to
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Dan Grebler and Cynthia
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