Release of names in 'Bridgegate' case delayed

Friday, May 13, 2016
In this Sept. 8, 2014 file photo, the George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River between Fort Lee, N.J., and New York.
wpvi-AP Photo/Mel Evans

NEWARK, N.J. -- A federal judge in New Jersey has delayed the release of names of unindicted co-conspirators in the criminal case stemming from the 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge so she can consider a request filed by someone among those named to keep them private.

U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton had ordered the government to release the list of names by noon Friday in response to a motion filed by The Associated Press and other media organizations.

But before the deadline hour, she instead asked for written arguments on the request, filed late Thursday by a person identified as John Doe, and she pushed the deadline for release of the names to noon Tuesday, according to Bruce Rosen, a lawyer for the media organizations.

The U.S. attorney's office, which is prosecuting two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie in the lane-closing scandal, has opposed the release of the list, citing individual privacy concerns.

Rosen said John Doe is looking to deal with the same issues already dismissed by Wigenton. The motion said Doe will be "publicly branded a felon without due process of law, causing him immediate and irreparable reputational harm."

In her order this week, the judge said it was in the public's interest to release the list limited to those "whom the Government has sufficient evidence to designate as having joined the conspiracy."

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.

The two allegedly engineered the lane closures to create traffic jams in nearby Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor had declined to endorse Christie for re-election. Both have pleaded not guilty and have sought to have the charges dismissed.

Christie, a former presidential candidate and now a key Donald Trump supporter, has not been charged and has denied knowledge of the closures. This week he said it was "highly doubtful" he was on the list of unindicted co-conspirators.

The Thursday motion came on the same day the media organizations asked federal prosecutors to release a separate list that reportedly shows the names of people who may have known about the conspiracy but weren't criminally charged.

Rosen said he has requested a copy of the second list, which was created by federal investigators. He said the organizations will seek a court order to release the document if prosecutors don't provide it.

Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, initially requested the names in a filing in early March, a few weeks after a footnote in a government filing referred to individuals "who may have had knowledge of the conspiracy or took actions that happened to further its goals" but did not join the conspiracy.