TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A lawyer for a key figure in a political payback scandal involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is turning the tables by demanding that investigators submit emails related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal to him.
Lawyer Kevin Marino said Wednesday the state panel must produce within five days the emails it claims proves that a subpoena to former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien is not a fishing expedition.
At a hearing to quash the subpoena Tuesday, legislative lawyer Reid Schar said newly received documents show Stepien knew more about the traffic-blocking plot and cover-up than originally revealed.
Marino said any additional evidence must be produced.
The panel has subpoenaed documents and communications from dozens of people and organizations in connection with its investigation in to September’s lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, which caused four days of gridlock. The move appears to have been political retribution targeted at Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not endorse Christie in his re-election bid.
The committee is trying to determine how far up the chain of command the plot went. Christie has denied having any knowledge of the plan to close the lanes beforehand.
Stepien and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, are the only potential witnesses who are fighting the subpoenas, as they argue that submitting the documents carries the risk of self-incrimination.
“This is about the ability of the government to call someone to be a witness against themselves,” Marino said in court Tuesday.
Lawyers for the legislative panel counter that documents released so far make it reasonable that other correspondence exists and should be turned over.
Kelly was fired in January after emails obtained earlier in the investigation showed she set the lane closings in motion with a message: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Stepien had exchanged texts with Kelly discussing the lane closures.
Meanwhile, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson gave Schar until Monday to explain why the state panel may be unable to grant immunity in the case. Replies are due a week later.
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