TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Two of Gov. Chris Christie’s former aides who were fired for their roles in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal do not have to turn over documents to a legislative investigative panel, a New Jersey judge ruled Wednesday.
Former Christie loyalists Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien had been fighting subpoenas calling for them to hand over documents regarding a plot to create traffic jams in Fort Lee to retaliate against the town’s mayor.
Lawyers have asserted the pair’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination due to an ongoing federal investigation into the September traffic jams.
“In its zeal to achieve a blatantly political goal having nothing to do with Mr. Stepien, the committee disregarded the fundamental constitutional rights of this innocent man,” Stepien’s lawyer, Kevin Marino, told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Kelly’s attorney, Michael Critchley, said his client was “very thrilled” with the ruling.
“I told her, ‘We’re going to fight for you vigorously and protect all your rights,” he said.
Lawyers for the legislative panel argued the law does not entitle Kelly and Stepien to blanket protections from subpoenas for documents. They maintain exceptions would have to be argued case by case.
In her 98-page opinion, Judge Mary Jacobson noted the case presented a unique legal challenge because the federal probe could lead to criminal charges.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the state panel looking into the lane closures, released a statement after the ruling saying the committee will consult with its lawyers before determining it next move.
“The committee felt it was very much in the public interest to seek to compel the production of these documents, but as we’ve said before, there’s more than one method to gather information in an investigation, and we will consider alternatives,” he said. “We will continue exploring every avenue to find out what happened with this threat to public safety and abuse of government power.”
Jacobson’s ruling will likely be appealed.
Kelly’s email to Christie-appointed Port Authority official David Wildstein — “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — touched off the state probe into the lane closures that snarled traffic for four days in September.
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