Federal agents are conducting a criminal investigation of a fired deputy chief of staff to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over her role in deliberate traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge, her attorney said.
A U.S. investigator tried to contact Bridget Anne Kelly, her parents, her ex-husband and in-laws, according to legal papers released yesterday by attorney Michael Critchley. Kelly’s e-mail saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” came almost a month before Christie allies directed the shutdown of access lanes to the bridge from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12.
Critchley is resisting a state legislative committee’s subpoena seeking documents about the tie-ups, saying it would violate Kelly’s constitutional right against self-incrimination. The lawmakers have issued 38 subpoenas, while U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman is conducting a parallel criminal investigation.
“It is clear that the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation is active and that, by virtue of the e-mail attributed to Ms. Kelly and the U.S. Attorney’s Office attempt” to speak to her, she is “at the very least, a subject of the investigation,” according to the papers.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, has said he believes the tie-ups were meant to punish him for not backing the re-election last fall of Christie, a Republican. The scandal has hurt the governor’s reputation as he eyes a White House run in 2016.
Critchley wrote in the papers, intended to be filed in state court in Trenton, that the probe ensnares Kelly in “the very ambiguous circumstances” protected by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which covers self-incrimination.
One of Fishman’s investigators, Thomas Mahoney, tried to contact Kelly and her family on Jan. 10, the day after Christie said he fired her, according to the papers. They refused to talk.
The papers are in response to a lawsuit by the state legislative committee seeking a judge’s order compelling Kelly to turn over documents relating to the lane closings.
The papers weren’t filed yesterday, as originally required. They are instead due today because a storm closed the courts one day this week, according to state judiciary spokeswoman Winnie Comfort.
Critchley’s papers are similar to a filing this week by Christie’s former campaign chief, William Stepien. The governor also cut ties to Stepien.
Two investigators asked Stepien’s landlord about “his conduct and character -- was he married, was he a rowdy tenant, did he pay his rent on time,” according to a filing by Stepien’s attorney, Kevin Marino.
Fishman’s prosecutors also have interviewed Sokolich and Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson has scheduled a March 11 hearing to consider whether to enforce the committee’s request to enforce the subpoena.
The cases are New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigations v. Kelly, MER-L-350-14, and New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigations v. Stepien, MER-L-354-14, Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County (Trenton).
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