Court date set for Christie’s appeal of bridge complaint
HACKENSACK -- A judge has set a court date for Republican Gov. Chris Christie's appeal of a resident's complaint that Christie failed to stop the closure of vehicular lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, allowing a traffic nightmare to ensue for days.
State Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol on Monday signed an order setting oral arguments for Jan. 11.
The appeal stems from a Bergen County judge's order that Christie appear at a Nov. 23 hearing, which was postponed by Mizdol's order.
The complaint was filed by retired Teaneck firefighter William Brennan and alleges Christie failed to order subordinates to re-open the bridge access lanes from Fort Lee. It alleges Christie "knowingly refrained from ordering that his subordinates take all necessary action to re-open local access lanes" that had been "closed with the purpose to injure (Democratic) Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich" for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid.
The complaint claims residents were "deprived the benefit and enjoyment of their community."
Christie denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged in what prosecutors say was a political payback scheme to create traffic jams at the bridge, which connects Fort Lee with New York and is one of the busiest bridges in the world. Two former Christie allies were recently convicted in the case, and a third earlier pleaded guilty and testified against them.
A hearing also is set for Nov. 30 on Brennan's motion to seek a special prosecutor in the case. Christie appointees Attorney General Christopher Porrino and acting Bergen County prosecutor Gurbir Grewal have recused themselves.
Christie's office has called Brennan a "serial complainant with a history of abusing the system."
Brennan on Tuesday disputed the negative characterization.
"If these people stopped breaking the law, I wouldn't be a serial complainant," he said.
Christie's attorney Craig Carpenito earlier told a municipal court judge the complaint was "intentionally misleading" and what Christie knew about the closures was already thoroughly investigated.
Official misconduct is considered a second-degree offense in New Jersey and carries a possible sentence of five to 10 years in prison upon conviction.
Three investigations into the scandal found no evidence Christie authorized or knew about the lane closures. Federal prosecutors did not charge Christie after their investigation, a Democrat-led legislative panel failed to find evidence linking the governor to the plot and a 2014 taxpayer-funded report found the governor was unaware of the September 2013 closures until afterward.
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