HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – After New Jersey prosecutors fought Wednesday against a bid to bring criminal charges against Gov. Chris Christie, an activist behind the case bemoaned the process outside the courthouse Wednesday.
“The system is being bent to the will of the governor,” said Bill Brennan, a retired firefighter who has an extensive legal history filing cases mostly against public officials.
Brennan brought a citizen’s complaint this past October, trying to force a criminal trial of Christie in connection to Bridgegate, the politically motivated traffic shutdown on the George Washington Bridge that caused four days of gridlock in September 2013.
Christie has always denied responsibility for or pre-existing knowledge of the plot, but three of his former allies – David Wildstein, Bill Baroni Jr. and Bridget Ann Kelly – face prison time for conspiracy.
At Baroni and Kelly’s trial last year, Wildstein testified that Christie knew of the plot and seemed pleased. Prosecutors also introduced a photograph of Christie in a jolly huddle with Wildstein and Baroni on what had been Day 3 of the lane closures.
In his October court filing, Brennan said the evidence showed that “Christie knowingly refrained from” reopening the lanes.
But Christie’s attorney Craig Carpenito of Alston & Bird told the Bergen County Superior Court on Wednesday that the criminal complaint was “fatally flawed” and that Brennan “lacks personal knowledge of the facts.”
Wildstein had been the federal government’s star witness against Baroni and Kelly, but Carpenito said this “convicted felon” is too shady a character for Brennan to rest his allegations on.
Though Carpenito fought Wildstein’s testimony from the Bridgegate trial as inadmissible in Brennan’s case, the attorney also told the court that none of the three co-conspirators testified about discussing the plot with the governor before it happened.
Kelly actually testified that she told Christie on Aug. 12 about plans for the lane shutdown, which she claimed to believe was part of a traffic study.
“I was scared if I didn’t tell him what would happen … I would be blamed for something I didn’t do,” Kelly had said.
It was because Christie gave the green light, Kelly said, that she emailed Wildstein that same day with the infamous message: “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Brennan blasted the proceedings after the hearing outside the courthouse,
“No reasonable person believes that Wildstein, Kelly and Baroni went through all this trouble to retaliate against [Fort Lee Mayor] Mark Sokolich … and then didn’t tell [Christie] what was going on,” he said.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino “is signing checks for the defense attorney today,” Brennan added.
Carpenito meanwhile cast Brennan’s filing as political, noting that the ex-firefighter plans to run for governor. Christie’s second term expires this year.
After Carpentio wrapped up his remarks, prosecutors for the state argued that Brennan’s complaint should be dismissed on procedural grounds because Christie’s lawyers were not allowed to speak at the October probable-cause hearing, despite being present for it.
But Brennan has voiced similar complaints, noting that Christie has yet to testify.
“The optics of this are horrendous,” he said outside the courthouse.
Judge Bonnie Mizdol promised to have a ruling by week’s end.
Last month, the judge denied Brennan’s request to have a special prosecutor appointed in the case.