NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey judge has ruled that a criminal complaint against Gov. Chris Christie over the Bridgegate scandal can go forward.
Applause erupted in the courtroom when Municipal Court Judge Roy McGeady announced his ruling Thursday. McGeady ruled that there was probable cause to believe Christie knew the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 were not for a routine traffic study.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Christie from day one has denied any wrongdoing in the 2013 Bridgegate scandal. Nevertheless, McGeady ruled that the case should go forward.
Christie spokesman Brian Murray said McGeady violated the governor’s constitutional rights and ignored an earlier decision that finding probable cause was flawed.
In October, McGeady ruled there was probable cause for retired Teaneck firefighter William Brennan’s misconduct complaint against Christie to proceed, but a higher court judge disagreed and sent it back to be reconsidered.
Last month, Bergen County prosecutors announced they would not be pressing charges against the governor.
“The judge is violating the law, pure and simple,” Murray said. “This concocted claim was investigated for three months by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, which summarily dismissed it, after concluding that the very same evidence relied upon again by this judge was utter nonsense. That is exactly what it is. The law requires this judge to have done the same. This is a complete non-event.”
Brennan snapped back at Murray’s remarks.
“A non-event?” Brennan said. “The summons was issued for the governor of the State of New Jersey because a judge found the probable cause existed to believe he committed a second-degree crime.”
Brennan, who is a Democratic candidate for New Jersey governor, claimed in his civilian complaint that Christie knew about, but did nothing to stop the politically-motivated effort to cause gridlock on the George Washington Bridge. The alleged purpose of the lane closures was an act of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
The plan was organized by former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann Kelly and former Port Authority Deputy Executive Bill Baroni. Both were convicted of conspiracy and other charges in November.
On Thursday, McGeady quoted from testimony from the Kelly and Baroni’s federal trial before ruling there was probable cause to believe Christie knew the lane reductions were more than just a routine traffic study.
“What we just witnessed was complete and utter evisceration of any of Chris Christie’s protestations, clearly the evidence established by the judge, the way he marshaled that evidence makes it impossible for anybody to say that Chris Christie didn’t know about these lane closings,” Brennan said after the ruling.
Political expert Doug Muzzio said if the latest ruling withstands an appeal, Christie will have to testify in court.
“He’s never going to shake this. He’s going — the footnote of Bridgegate is going to be Chris Christie’s life,” said Muzzio, of Baruch College. “It’s going to be a dominant theme. It’s going to affect his public career. It’s damaging.”
Brennan has requested a special prosecutor be appointed in the case.
A March 10 date has been set for Christie to answer the criminal summons, though it’s unclear if he will have to appear in person.
(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)