Court order sought in N.J. bridge scandal subpoena fight
February 19th, 2014
03:39 PM ET
10 months ago

Court order sought in N.J. bridge scandal subpoena fight

Updated 6:52 p.m. ET, 2/19/2014

(CNN) - A state legislative committee in New Jersey sought a court order on Wednesday for key figures in a scandal roiling Gov. Chris Christie's administration to comply with subpoenas.

The investigative panel filed papers in New Jersey Superior Court against former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and former campaign manager Bill Stepien.

The two have refused to comply with a request for documents relating to the investigation of traffic jams last September around the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.

E-mails released by legislative investigators last month suggest top Christie appointees orchestrated the gridlock over a work week by closing certain bridge access lanes to punish the town's mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing the Republican governor for reelection.

Christie has denied knowing about the gridlock until after it occurred and only through media reports. He also denies knowing anything about an alleged political payback scheme.

The committee, comprised of Assembly and Senate members, essentially argues in its filing that Kelly and Stepien lost their Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent as soon as the texts and emails in question were sent, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The filings argue that the two are not going to incriminate themselves further by providing documents that have already been shared, the source explained.

"Today's court filings are an unfortunate but necessary step to further the committee's work. The committee remains confident in its legal position. We will now let the judicial process play out," Democratic committee co-chairs John Wisniewski and Loretta Weinberg said in a statement.

Stepien's attorney, Kevin Marino, said that "we received their brief late this afternoon but have not reviewed it yet. We will do so and respond appropriately."

Kelly's attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

Her email saying "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" sent to another prominent figure in the controversy, David Wildstein, weeks before the traffic jams occurred accelerated the probe when it surfaced publicly in January.

Kelly was fired and Stepien was cut lose from Christie's political organization.

Several other Christie advisers who received subpoenas have complied with the request for information.

Christie has said his office is turning over documents.

Separately, commuters and travelers got an apology on Wednesday from the transportation agency at the center of the scandal.

David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said he was "deeply sorry for the inconvenience" caused by the lane closures.

He said he would have liked to comment further but could not due to the ongoing investigations.

"I trust that when the facts unfold the public will have a complete picture of what happened," he said at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Port Authority's Board of Directors.

Samson, appointed to the agency by Christie, has been subpoenaed as part of the legislative committee investigation of the mess that has raised questions about Christie's governing style and clouded any prospects for a 2016 presidential run.

In addition to that probe, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey is also looking into the matter.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    Mr. Sampson, we need to know who ordered the Port Authority Police to tell commuters to call Ft. Lee's borough offices and the Mayor's office. Save your apology.

    February 19, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Krispy had no clue that his appointees in his administration were shaking down elected officials? Despite stone walling the investigation, it is moving forward, and not looking good for repubs. If it gets really bad, Fox is going to have to open up the Shepard Smith time slot and give it to Krispy.

    February 19, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. O'drama ya Mama

    It took 5 months to say "sorry for the inconvenience"? Innocent people dont apologize, especially not this late in the game.

    February 19, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Christie has denied knowing about the gridlock until after it occurred and only through media reports. He also denies knowing anything about an alleged political payback scheme.
    --------------------------------
    Christie denies knowing an alleged political payback scheme, but has to admit that his name is on a Sandy Relief Fund check to nursing home project that broke ground AFTER the state received federal money. Even conservative newspapers across the state of New Jersey are all but throwing Christie under the bus.

    Christie has a thrice postponed town hall scheduled for today, I believe. Local media is anxious to find out why is it that he suddenly fired the two biggest contractors distributing Sandy Funds, which brought most everything to a grinding halt.

    February 19, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. WPGSAH

    So, why does Samson get a free ride ?? Why are Democrats providing no attack on the Republicans lead by Christie ?? Is it because they were in the trough up to their necks in the cronyism and payola...look after my development i well get my boys to support you ??? Just asking ?? Also with all the 5th Amendments flying around why bother to have any investigation... SAH

    February 19, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. Malory Archer

    He's only "sorry" because he got caught and is looking at criminal charges.

    February 19, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Malory Archer

    He's only "sorry" because he got caught and is looking at criminal charges.
    --------------------------------
    I believe he's one of the people who are still not in full compliance with the subpoenas. Some folks were granted extensions.

    February 19, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Randy, San Francisco

    Samson can prove that his apology is sincere by not invoking his Fifth Amendment rights at the hearing and answering all questions truthfully.

    February 19, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. Ol' Yeller

    Sorry was not what he said when he fired off the e-mail to the gentleman on the New York side who was actually trying to get to the bottom of the lane closures.
    In fact, Rachel Maddow did a story several weeks ago on how apologetic and proactive Mr. Samson had been on a similar situation where there had been problems and backups for a several hour period on another bridge on Mother's Day some time ago. He wrote a letter of apology the NEXT DAY and vowed that heads would roll when he found the culprits (had to do with poor scheduling and no one manning the booths).
    I guess he is not so interested in finding the culprit when it involved looking in a mirror.

    February 19, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |