Chris Christie can be prosecuted for Bridgegate, judge rules

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie © Randall Hill
The Bridgegate scandal just won’t go away for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. A judge has ruled that a citizen’s official misconduct complaint against the Republican for his reported role in politically-motivated lane closures can move forward.

Municipal Presiding Judge Roy McGeady signed a criminal summons on Thursday that will go to  the Bergen County prosecutor’s office, which must now decide whether or not to bring the case before a grand jury ,which could result in a possible indictment, WNBC reported.

New Jersey activist Bill Brennan filed a complaint of official misconduct in the second degree against Christie at the end of September. He claimed that Christie knew of the plan to force lane closings near the George Washington Bridge while it was happening. The plot ‒ which closed two of the three access lanes leading to the bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey ‒ was reportedly in retaliation for the borough’s Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to endorse Christie’s reelection campaign.

Brennan said part of the reason he filed the complaint was because the four days of lane closures in September 2013 cost New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars.

"I'm satisfied that there's probable cause to believe that an event of official misconduct was caused by Governor Christie," McGeady said on Thursday. "I'm going to issue the summons."

Brennan, who has a law degree, applauded the announcement.

"Anything short of probable cause today would have been official misconduct on the part of the judge," he said. "The standard is low, the evidence is heavy."

Christie’s office decried the decision, saying they would “immediately appeal” the ruling.

"This is a dishonorable complaint filed by a known serial complainant and political activist with a history of abusing the judicial system," Christie spokesman Brian Murray told the Newark Star-Ledger. "The simple fact is the governor had no knowledge of the lane realignments either before they happened or while they were happening. This matter has already been thoroughly investigated by three separate independent investigations."

The complaint was based on testimony made during a federal court case regarding the closures. David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, said that he and defendant Bill Baroni made Christie aware of the plan while they were attending September 11 commemorations in Manhattan, which was during the four days of lane closures.

Brennan claimed that Christie could have halted the plot for political retribution, but declined to do so.

When McGeady asked Brennan why he filed his complaint in Bergen County, rather than in Mercer County, where the state capital is, the citizen activist answered that the lane closures had taken place in Bergen’s Fort Lee. McGeady said that was an appropriate reason, the Star-Ledger reported.

Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal was appointed to the position by Christie in January. McGeady suggested that Grewal would likely recuse himself from the case. Christie was a Republican presidential candidate, but has served as a surrogate for GOP nominee Donald Trump since the governor ended his campaign in February, at the beginning of the primary season.