NEWARK, N.J. – For the second time, a New Jersey prosecutor has declined to pursue a resident’s criminal misconduct case against Republican Gov. Chris Christie over the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal.
A municipal judge has twice ruled there was probable cause to proceed, most recently on Feb. 16. But Bergen County first assistant prosecutor John Higgins III wrote Thursday he feels the charge can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
In an emailed statement, Christie spokesman Brian Murray called the complaint “factually and legally baseless” and said Christie had no role in the lane closings.
“All those who wish it were otherwise have again been proven wrong,” he said.
Higgins’ letter reiterated what he wrote to state Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol in late January. That came after Mizdol reversed Municipal Court Judge Roy McGeady’s first finding of probable cause and sent the case back to McGeady for a re-hearing.
Retired firefighter William Brennan filed the complaint against Christie last October, using testimony from the federal trial of two ex-Christie allies who later were convicted. Christie wasn’t charged in that case.
Brennan alleges Christie knew about but didn’t stop a plot to purposely create gridlock near the bridge, which connects Fort Lee with New York City, to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, who didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election bid in 2013. Christie denies involvement.
Former Christie staffer Bridget Kelly and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official Bill Baroni were convicted and are scheduled to be sentenced this month. Kelly and Baroni said the government twisted federal law to turn their actions into crimes. Another former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Brennan has filed a motion to have a special prosecutor appointed and said Mizdol is scheduled to hold a hearing next week. Mizdol denied a similar motion in December.
Brennan has argued that even though state Attorney General Christopher Porrino and Bergen County prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, who were appointed by Christie, removed themselves from the case, their subordinates also wouldn’t be able to consider the case impartially.
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