Christie won't face charges in Bridgegate-related case, prosecutors say

By Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 27, 2017

William J. Brennan, of Wayne, who filed a citizen's complaint accusing Gov. Chris Christie of official misconduct in the closing of traffic lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 leaves the Federal Courthouse after attending the Bridgegate trial.

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TRENTON -- Municipal prosecutors announced Friday afternoon they will not pursue a criminal misconduct case against  Gov. Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.

Bergen County assistant prosecutor John Higgins said in a letter Friday that the state does not believe it can prove official misconduct beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case stems from a complaint filed by former Teaneck firefighter William Brennan, who subsequently announced a gubernatorial run.

Brennan says that Christie violated the state's misconduct law when he failed to reopen the lanes that were closed in an alleged political revenge plot to punish a mayor who didn't back Christie in 2013.

In October, Bergen municipal judge Roy McGeady issued a surprise ruling that there was sufficient evidence for the complaint to move ahead. 

A state Superior Court judge, however, struck that down, saying Christie was wrongfully denied counsel at an initial hearing and sent the case back to that judge. 

Christie's office lauded the prosecutor's decision and claimed the matter is "finally over" since there is no official willing to prosecute the matter.

"The governor is gratified that the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office has ended this baseless fiasco began by Mr. Brennan and perpetuated by Judge McGeady," Christie spokesman Brian Murray said in a statement.

"After a thorough review, the prosecutors office was crystal clear: there is no basis for this charge against the governor and there was no basis for Judge McGeady to ever have found otherwise," he said. "It is right and appropriate that this injustice against the governor is finally over."

Brennan said he doesn't believe the case is over. He said the decision not to pursue charges shows that prosecutors cannot be "fair and impartial."

"This vindicates my position that a special prosecutor is needed," he said.

A Superior Court judge earlier rejected Brennan's request for such a prosecutor. County prosecutors are appointed by the governor in New Jersey.

"There is still going to be a probably cause hearing (in municipal court) next Thursday," Brennan said. 

In November, a jury found Christie's former aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, and his Port Authority appointee, Bill Baroni, guilty on all counts.

In a seven-week trial that saw their own words used against them, Baroni and Kelly were convicted of helping orchestrate massive traffic tie-ups at the George Washington Bridge in September 2013. The plot was hatched to send a pointed message to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, after he stepped back from his earlier public support of Christie.

Drawing on testimony from David Wildstein, a cooperating witness in the federal trial who pleaded guilty to federal crimes for his role in the scheme, the citizen complaint alleged that Christie failed to take action after being informed of politically-motivated closures.

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