Gov. Chris Christie Faces Criminal Summons for 2013 NJ Traffic Plot
HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) — A New Jersey judge issued a criminal summons Thursday against Gov. Chris Christie, finding probable cause in a citizen's claim that 2013 traffic machinations amounted to misconduct in the governor's office.
Issuance of the summons brings the complaint to the office of county prosecutors, who will decide whether to take the case to a grand jury.
Christie's spokesman Brian Murray revealed that the governor's office is appealing the ruling.
"This is a dishonorable complaint filed by a known serial complainant and political activist with a history of abusing the judicial system," he said in a statement. "The simple fact is the governor had no knowledge of the lane realignments either before they happened or while they were happening. This matter has already been thoroughly investigated by three separate independent investigations."
Meanwhile, 15 miles downstate, a federal jury is halfway through the related criminal trial of two Christie allies charged with closing down lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee.
Christie has long denied involvement in or knowledge of the September 2013 plot, but admitted co-conspirator David Wildstein testified in the trial that the governor knew while the lanes were still closed.
Wildstein testified for over a week against Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Bill Baroni. Like Wildstein, the governor had appointed Baroni to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that runs the busy George Washington Bridge.
It took an executive order from an official on the New York side of the agency to reopen the closed lanes after four days of gridlock traffic had marooned commuters, school buses and emergency vehicles.
With the trial of Kelly and Baron playing out before a federal jury in Newark, the summons against Christie came out of the Bergen County Justice Center, transferred out of Fort Lee to avoid a conflict of interest.
Judge Roy McGeady signed the summons this morning.
It says "Christie knowingly refrained from ordering that his subordinates take all necessary action to re-open local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, that had been closed with purpose to injure Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, along with Fort Lee residents who were deprived the benefit and enjoyment of their community as a consequence of this intentional evil minded act taken by public officials acting on the authority vested in them by the office of the governor of the state of New Jersey."
The George Washington Bridge is one of the busiest in the world, connecting the Garden State to New York City.
William Brennan, a Wayne County resident and Teaneck firefighter, initiated the September complaint against Christie that prompted today's summons.
NBC New York first reported the news out of McGeady's municipal division courtroom.
The footage, which instantly went viral on Twitter, shows McGeady referring to "an act that is alleged to have occurred on Sept. 11, 2013."
Prosecutors in the Bridgegate trial submitted photographic evidence from that day showing Christie, Baroni and Wildstein in a jolly huddle during a tour of a 9/11 memorial.
Wildstein said Baroni had given Christie the news about Fort Lee's traffic problems, and that Christie was pleased. The Republican governor's office had purportedly put Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich on a "hands-off list" to get back at him for not endorsing Christie's re-election.
An initial court appearance hearing is slated to hit the Bergen County Justice Center on Oct. 24 at 9 a.m.