5th Amendment cited in N.J. bridge inquiry
TRENTON — It's now up to a judge whether two key figures in a political payback scandal ensnaring Gov. Chris Christie's administration will have to turn over text messages and other private communications to New Jersey lawmakers investigating the case.
Fired Christie staffer Bridget Kelly and two-time campaign manager Bill Stepien risk self-incrimination if they comply with subpoenas for documents related to traffic tie-ups at the George Washington Bridge, their lawyers told a county judge.
A lawyer for the legislative panel countered that the law does not entitle them to the blanket protection they seek. Rather, any documents deemed potentially incriminating by Kelly and Stepien should be argued on a case-by-case basis, the lawyer said.
The subpoenas seek documents concerning the September blocking of approach lanes to the bridge, which caused hours-long backups in nearby Fort Lee, apparently to punish the town's Democratic mayor. Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson requested more briefs, so she is unlikely to rule before the end of the month.
Lawyers for Kelly and Stepien partially based their Fifth Amendment claims on a parallel criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney's office, which is seeking to uncover whether federal laws were broken. The legislative panel, which lacks authority to prosecute, wants to find out how high up Christie's chain of command the lane-closing scheme went and why it was hatched.
Christie, whose viability as a 2016 Republican presidential candidate has been called into question since the scandal erupted, has said he knew nothing of the plot's planning or execution. He said in December that no one on his staff was involved, a statement he was forced to retract in January when private emails showed otherwise. An email from Kelly saying “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” appeared to set the scheme in motion.
She received the reply “got it” from David Wildstein, a Christie loyalist at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nurse defies Maine quarantine in standoff over Ebola
- Unaccompanied immigrants put heavy strain on schools, charities
- Few knew of cyber attack on White House computer network
- Democratic areas flush with transportation grants
- D.C. closer to legalizing sale of pot
- Inmate freed in landmark case
- Terminally ill woman may delay planned Nov. 1 suicide
- Wash. shooting survivor has jaw surgery
- Botched probe of suspected arms dealer echoed Fast and Furious, watchdog finds
- Museum saves part of bomber plant
- Gray wolf sighting reported at Grand Canyon