An anonymous person whose name is on a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing case has asked a federal appeals court to stop the release of the names this week so he can argue he would be unfairly branded a criminal if the list is made public.
An attorney for the man, referred to as John Doe in court papers, appealed a federal judge's ruling in New Jersey to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, writing that releasing the names without allowing her client to establish that he wasn't a co-conspirator would violate his due process rights.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton last week denied the person's request to keep the names secret but moved a deadline to noon Tuesday for the government to release the list. The Associated Press is among the media organizations that went to court for the release of the names.
"We are confident the court will agree with Judge Wigenton and deny this stay request," said Bruce Rosen, of McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen & Carvelli, the attorney for the media groups.
Jenny Kramer, an attorney for Doe, contended that her client's reputation would be damaged by being "publicly branded a felon."
In the criminal case, two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie face charges accusing them of creating traffic jams at the bridge for political revenge against a local Democratic mayor. Christie, a former presidential candidate and now a key Donald Trump supporter, has not been charged and has denied advance knowledge of the lane closures.
The list includes the names of people the government believes were involved in the alleged conspiracy but prosecutors have insufficient evidence to criminally charge them.
The U.S. attorney's office also opposes the release of the list.
Kramer wrote in her filing Saturday to the appeals court that courts have found that identifying someone as an unindicted co-coconspirator without giving them a chance to challenge the accusation is a violation of due process.
"Doe will suffer irreparable harm absent the relief sought because once he is named as an unindicted co-conspirator at noon on May 17, the stigma that the Government believes there is evidence that he entered an agreement to shut down traffic at the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against (Fort Lee Mayor Mark) Sokolich can never be removed," Kramer wrote.
The judge said in her ruling that she was puzzled that Doe waited until the night before the list was to be released, originally Friday, to attempt to intervene. The judge disagreed with Kramer's argument that he wasn't given a chance for due process.
Bridget Kelly, Christie's then-deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a top Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, face federal wire fraud and civil rights charges and are scheduled for trial this fall. The Port Authority oversees the bridge operations.
Kelly and Baroni have pleaded not guilty and have asked to have the charges dismissed.