The former campaign manager for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie won’t comply with a pared-down subpoena issued by a legislative committee probing intentional traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge, his lawyer said.
The new subpoena, seeking documents from William Stepien about traffic tie-ups last September, doesn’t overcome his objection that handing over information violates his constitutional right against self-incrimination, attorney Kevin Marino wrote today to a joint state Senate-Assembly panel.
“I can think of no lawful way the committee can obtain documents responsive to its subpoena,” Marino said in a letter to Reid Schar, special counsel to the committee. “His principled objections to the subpoena raise significant legal issues that are no less valid because they here arise in the context of a politically charged investigation.”
Marino’s response is the latest roadblock to Schar’s efforts to gain documents that may shed light on why Christie’s allies shut down local access lanes to the bridge between Sept. 9 and 12, tying up traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, has also cited constitutional grounds in saying she won’t comply with a subpoena for her documents.
“The subpoena as drawn is constitutionally defective, and accordingly, I will not be responding with any documents,” Kelly’s attorney Michael Critchley said today in an interview.
The legislative panel last month issued subpoenas for Christie’s office and re-election campaign and 18 individuals to turn over documents and communications related to the shutdown.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, has said he believes the tie-ups were meant to punish him for not endorsing the re-election last fall of Christie, a Republican weighing a run for the White House.
The Marino letter came in response to Schar’s writing on Feb. 11, a day after the committee voted to use “all legal options” to force Stepien to hand over e-mails, texts and other documents. Schar said that Stepien’s objections were invalid, without providing a detailed explanation, Marino wrote. Schar asked if any materials could be produced without objection, Marino wrote.
Schar also suggested examining documents “in camera” -- a private review usually in a judge’s chambers -- and “offered to discuss these issues” or any idea “to allow the committee to obtain responsive documents from Mr. Stepien,” according to Marino’s letter.
“Beyond the fact that I cannot imagine what in camera review would entail or imply in the circumstances present here, Mr. Stepien objects to producing documents in response to the subpoena” not knowing who would review them or where, he wrote.
If Schar doesn’t withdraw the subpoena, Marino wrote, they should take the matter to a judge to decide.
Christie cut ties to Stepien and fired Kelly, who sent an Aug. 13 e-mail to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote before the lane closures.
“Got it,” wrote Wildstein, who ordered the closings.
Marino declined to comment further when reached by telephone.
The Democratic co-chairmen of the legislative committee, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, said they received Marino’s letter.
“We will review it and continue our efforts to enforce the subpoena,” Wisniewski and Weinberg said in a statement.