HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – A New Jersey judge blocked demands by an activist former firefighter on Thursday to have a special prosecutor investigate Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the Bridgegate scandal.
Citizen complainant Bill Brennan has argued that the prosecutor is necessary because of the "master-servant relationship" between the governor and the county prosecutors he has the power to fire.
Brennan told the Bergen County Municipal Court at this morning’s hearing that any failure to get his case off the ground will be because of “corrupt and conflicted prosecutors intervened on behalf of their boss.”
"I am disturbed that nobody will address the merits of this case,” Brennan added.
Judge Roy McGeady ended the hearing by saying he needs another week to consider whether Brennan established probable cause for his case against Christie.
Brennan brought his complaint in the middle of a federal criminal trial of two former Christie cronies, Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni Jr., charged with orchestrating Bridgegate.
The nearly two-month trial studied a traffic jam that wreaked havoc on Fort Lee, New Jersey, in September 2013 when for four days the Democratic-run city lost two of its three lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge.
Though the lane closures were initially blamed on a traffic study, a jury credited the evidence that Baroni and Kelly carried out the plot as political payback for the Republican Christie.
Though Christie maintains he had nothing to do with the plot, Brennan says the evidence at the trial proved at the very least that he failed to have the lanes reopened at the earliest possibility.
Indeed former Christie staffer Deborah Grammicioni testified about how Christie became "upset in his body" when he learned Kelly had sent emails related to the lane closures.
Outside the courtroom today, Brennan told reporters her testimony as well as that of Christie’s former chief political strategist, Mike DuHaime, was the mens rea that showed Christie knew about Bridgegate before he let on to the press.
Christie appointed Gramiccioni to be a Superior Court judge in Ocean County days after she took the stand. DuHaime meanwhile was entrenched with Christie in the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump.
The governor, who is in his last year of office because of term limits, has dismissed Brennan’s case against him as frivolous. His spokesman Brian Murray called Brennan a “serial complainant and political activist with a history of abusing the judicial system.”
Brennan, who himself is nursing a potential run for governor, said he plans to appeal his bid for a special prosecutor to the state Supreme Court.
Using harsh words for Christie’s attorney, Craig Carpenito, and for Bergen County prosecutors, Brennan derided them outside the courthouse Thursday alternately as "scum," "low lives" and "a poor excuse for an attorney."
"I haven't met a licensed attorney who doesn't believe a special prosecutor is warranted,” Brennan said. “I haven't met an ethics professor who doesn't believe that a conflict of interest carries from master to servant. To say these at-will employees are perfectly able to prosecute the governor is an absurdity."
Brennan called the fact that Kelly and Baroni were convicted of all nine charges "more than enough to establish probable cause” for Christie.
Judge McGeady will issue his probable-cause ruling on Feb. 9. Though McGeady actually found probable cause when Brennan first filed his misconduct case in October, Judge Bonnie Mizdol overruled that decision last month. Noting that the court had not given Christie an opportunity to cross-examine Brennan, she sent the case back to be reheard.
Mizdol declined Brennan’s request for a special prosecutor as well, saying that Brennan “has no right pursuant to our constitution, statues, case law, court rules, to prosecute criminal charges.”
Carpenito has previously insinuated that Brennan brought the case for ulterior motives, including to boost his Twitter following.
The Alston Bird attorney did not appear at Thursday’s hearing and sent a letter to the court saying neither himself nor Christie had to appear because the case was a "legal nullity."
Christie focused on the Bridgegate trial at a drug-rehabilitation event in Newark, lambasting reporters for covering the trial so closely.
“The fact is this, there’s lots of stuff that happened at that trial that turned out, a jury determined were absolutely baseless lies, and they convicted those liars,” Christie reportedly said, referring to Kelly and Baroni.
Some of the most explosive testimony against Christie at Kelly and Baroni’s trial came from David Wildstein, a man the governor himself used to credit as his “fixer” at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“There has been no testimony, except for Mr. Wildstein, that anyone was involved in acts of retaliation, and there was absolutely no testimony that I ever advised that any of those things were motivated by retaliation,” Christie told reporters in Newark.
The governor then added that “much of what Mr. Baroni said on the stand was a lie and that almost all of what Ms. Kelly said on the stand was a lie.”
Both Kelly and Baroni testified that Christie knew of the closures before they happened.
Just last week, Bergen County prosecutors said they would not charge Christie with any crime for lack of evidence.
Thursday’s hearing had not yet even kicked off when Brennan became agitated in the courtroom, having spotted an unnamed member of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office in the court. The two spoke outside briefly, where Brennan learned the office had no plans to file a motion to dismiss the case.Follow @NickRummell
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