Judge refuses to dismiss citizen’s ‘Bridgegate’ complaint against N.J.’s Christie

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By Joseph Ax

<span class="articleLocation”>A New Jersey judge on Thursday refused to
dismiss a citizen’s criminal complaint against Governor Chris
Christie over the “Bridgegate” scandal but ordered a lower court
to review it to determine whether the case should continue.

Judge Bonnie Mizdol, the top judge in Bergen County,
rejected Christie’s request to toss the complaint outright. But
she agreed with both Christie’s lawyers and county prosecutors
that a lower court judge erroneously denied the governor’s
attorney an opportunity to participate in a prior hearing in

The complaint was filed in September by Bill Brennan, a
retired firefighter and activist who recently announced he would
run for governor this year.

Brennan accused Christie of knowing about a plot to close
lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in order to punish
a local mayor for failing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

Two former Christie allies were convicted last year of
orchestrating the plot, and U.S. prosecutors introduced evidence
at trial suggesting the governor was at least aware of the
scheme. Christie, who has not been charged by prosecutors, has
steadfastly denied that he knew about the closures at the time
they occurred.

Roy McGeady, a municipal judge in Fort Lee, where Brennan’s
complaint was filed, found probable cause to allow the case to
proceed after a hearing at which Brennan testified. Christie’s
lawyer was not permitted to argue or cross-examine Brennan in
that hearing, McGeady said, because the governor was not a
defendant until probable cause was established.

That, Mizdol said on Thursday, was wrong under the law and
requires McGeady to redo the hearing.

“Defendant was improperly denied counsel at a critical
stage,” she wrote.

Brennan and a spokesman for Christie did not respond to
requests for comment.

It was not immediately clear when the new hearing would take
place. If McGeady again finds probable cause, the case moves to
the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office to determine whether there
is enough evidence to warrant filing charges against Christie.

Legal experts have said the governor is unlikely to face
criminal prosecution.

But the scandal’s fallout has badly damaged a once-promising
political career for Christie, who abandoned his own
presidential bid and was passed over by U.S. President-elect
Donald Trump for an administration post.

Christie, who faces dismal approval ratings, is barred from
running for re-election this year due to term limits.

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