Bridge Defendants Can’t Get Christie’s Cellphone

     NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Attorneys for former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie can’t get access to his cellphone as part of pretrial preparation in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case, a judge ruled Thursday.
     U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton granted a motion by the law firm representing Christie’s office to quash a subpoena by former allies Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly, who face trial in the fall on charges they conspired to close lanes to create traffic jams in 2013 to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie.
     Baroni and Kelly claimed the Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher law firm didn’t produce relevant documents as required by a government subpoena. They say Christie’s cellphone is relevant because a former aide said she texted with the governor during testimony by bridge officials to a legislative committee. The texts were deleted.
     Attorney Randy Mastro told Wigenton on Thursday that the firm fully complied with a government subpoena. He said granting the defendants’ subpoena would essentially award them a search warrant to look at the personal devices of Christie and others in his office.
     Kelly’s attorney, Michael Critchley, said Mastro’s firm didn’t ask Christie about the text messages during a state-funded investigation that absolved Christie of wrongdoing. He said it also didn’t press the aide about the texts.
     When asked by Wigenton about whether Christie’s phone was searched, Mastro replied it was searched “in coordination with a forensic firm.” He didn’t say who has the phone now.
     Mastro characterized the defendants’ quest for personal devices as “a general fishing expedition” and asked the judge, “Would you like to have your personal cellphone turned over, with your most personal, private information, to some lawyer? It’s so beyond the pale.”
     Thursday’s hearing came as Christie was being vetted as a potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, according to people with direct knowledge of the vetting process who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
     Of all the documents and materials sought in the subpoena, Christie’s phone has garnered the most attention, primarily because its whereabouts are a mystery.
     Christie has claimed he “gave it to the government” some time ago and wasn’t sure where it was; the U.S. attorney’s office said it never had the phone, and Gibson Dunn wrote in a court filing it “returned” the phone after reviewing its contents in response to a government subpoena. Christie declined to answer a question about it last week.
     A top Christie aide has said she exchanged texts with the governor during testimony by officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bridge’s operator, before a New Jersey legislative committee probing the closures.
     The aide, Regina Egea, has said she deleted the texts. In a court filing this week, Gibson Dunn said the texts contained “nothing inherently damaging or suspect.”
     Both Baroni, a former Port Authority executive, and Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, have pleaded not guilty.
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     Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this story.
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     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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