Judge Orders Release of Secret ‘Bridgegate’ Names


     TRENTON, N.J. (CN) — A secret list of unindicted co-conspirators involved in the state’s “Bridgegate” scandal could be released as soon as Friday, following a ruling by a federal judge.
     The list, which has been kept under lock and key, is thought to include additional elected officials who had knowledge of the 2013 lane shutdowns leading to the George Washington Bridge that led to a massive traffic jam.
     The judge hearing the case found arguments that the list is essentially already public knowledge persuasive. Further, the names on the list are likely elected or appointed officials, the judge ruled, which makes the list in the public interest.
     “The underlying events that gave rise to the indictment have been extensively covered by the media, such that even persons tangentially involved have already been identified and exposed in the press,” Judge Susan Wigenton wrote in her May 11 ruling. “There is very little that is private about the lane closures or the lives of the people allegedly connected to them.”
     The so-called Bridgegate scandal stems from a five-day shutdown of several lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic for hours. Bridget Anne Kelly and William Baroni Jr. were charged with conspiracy and fraud for their alleged roles in shutting down the lanes as political payback to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who had declined to endorse Gov. Chris Christie in his re-election bid for governor.
     When asked if he thought his name would be on the list of unindicted co-conspirators, Christie told reporters Wednesday “I don’t believe so, but I guess no one knows until they actually put the list out.” Christie, who is now both New Jersey’s governor and the transition team leader for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has repeatedly denied knowledge of the lane shutdowns.
     At the time of the shutdown, Kelly served as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Chris Christie and Baroni was deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Another Port Authority official, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty for his role in the shutdown.
     The case took a new twist in January, when a legal document shared among lawyers in the case included a list of unindicted co-conspirators. Wigenton had originally placed a protective order on the list.
     Several media outlets — including North Jersey Media Group, the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, and NBCUniversal — sued for access to the document, arguing it should not remain under seal.
     In a motion, a lawyer for the media outlets argued that the list of co-conspirators should not have been sealed as it was subject to First Amendment access. Attorneys in the case had argued the list included financial and medical information, as well as other sensitive matters not related to the conspiracy charges, and therefore should remain sealed.
     Both Kelly and Baroni have called for the list to be made public, and they have insinuated it includes others in Christie’s office and elsewhere who knew about the lane shutdowns.
     In her ruling, Wigenton also warned lawyers for both sides going forward that they should formally file motions to seal documents or they will be made public. Neither side had motioned to seal the document when it was first entered into the court.

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