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Judge Defies Bergen Prosecutor, Finds Probable Cause for Christie Misconduct Case to Go Forward

A spokesman for the governor called the complaint "utter nonsense" and said the judge is "violating the law" by allowing it to move forward

What to Know

  • Wayne resident William Brennan's complaint says Christie violated the official misconduct statute when he failed to reopen lanes on the GWB
  • A judge ruled in October there was probable cause for the complaint to proceed, but a different judge overturned that in January
  • Christie's attorney had said the complaint should be tossed for procedural violations and lack of evidence; judges have disagreed

A municipal court judge ruled for the second time Thursday that the citizen's misconduct complaint against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stemming from the closures at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 has probable cause to move forward.

Judge Roy McGeady had previously ruled in October that the case had merit to proceed, but a state Superior Court Judge overturned his decision and kicked it back to McGeady's court for another hearing Thursday. Again, McGeady found there was probable cause for the complaint, despite statements last month from the Bergen County prosecutor's office that it would not pursue charges.

The complaint, filed by former Teaneck firefighter William Brennan, accuses Christie of failing to stop subordinates from purposely creating traffic jams to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse him for reelection.

McGeady quoted testimony from the federal trial of two former Christie aides before ruling there was probable cause to believe Christie knew the lane reductions were more than just a routine traffic study. Applause erupted in the courtroom when he announced his ruling. 

Brian Murray, press secretary for Christie, said in a statement that McGeady is "violating the law, pure and simple."

"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," Murray said. "That is exactly what it is. The law requires this judge to have done the same. This is a complete non-event.”

The governor has repeatedly denied knowing about the scheme until months later and has never been charged in the case.

Thursday's hearing is the latest in an ongoing saga that has seen the case bounce between municipal court and state Superior Court for months. 

State Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol overturned McGeady's ruling last month, saying it was flawed because the governor's attorneys had not been allowed to cross-examine Brennan, who has a law degree and is representing himself. She refused to throw out the case, however, and called a new hearing.

Brennan said ahead of Thursday's hearing that he expected McGeady to once again find probable cause for the complaint to proceed.

"I am predicting blood on the floor after a complete evisceration of Defendant Christie," Brennan wrote in an email earlier this week. "The evidence against him is staggering."

Two of Christie's former aides were convicted in federal court in November. 

The scandal dogged Christie through his failed campaign for the GOP presidential nomination and was considered a factor in his not being chosen as running mate for Donald Trump last year. 

The entire case could hinge on whether Brennan can get the state Supreme Court to intervene and order the appointment of a special prosecutor. Brennan has argued state and county prosecutors and their subordinates owe their jobs to Christie and can't be impartial.

Official misconduct is punishable by a potential prison term of five to 10 years upon conviction. Before Christie could face a criminal trial, prosecutors would have to collect evidence and present it to a grand jury, which would have to hand up an indictment.

Christie is scheduled to appear in municipal court March 10 on a criminal summons.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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