New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s former campaign manager demanded that a legislative committee produce any documents showing he knew about deliberate traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge.
William Stepien’s lawyer wrote today to Reid Schar, an attorney for the legislative committee investigating lane closings at the bridge, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12. Fallout from the bridge scandal has threatened the possible bid of Christie, a Republican, for a White House run in 2016.
Schar argued yesterday in a court hearing in Trenton, New Jersey, that he has seen documents suggesting that “Mr. Stepien knew more about the four days of lane closings and the subsequent cover-up,” according to the letter. Kevin Marino, Stepien’s lawyer, said that his client is innocent and that lawmakers produced five e-mails discussing his role.
Marino asked Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson to deny Schar’s request to enforce a subpoena seeking any documents that Stepien has about the closures. Marino argued yesterday that turning over the documents would threaten Stepien’s constitutional right against self-incrimination because U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey is conducting a parallel criminal probe.
A lawyer for Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, made similar Fifth Amendment arguments yesterday in seeking to block a subpoena for documents from her.
The Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, has said he believes the traffic jams were payback for him not endorsing Christie’s re-election last fall. Sokolich and several others have been interviewed by prosecutors in Fishman’s office.
Marino, who released the letter, argued that Schar seeks to overcome the Fifth Amendment challenge by claiming the existence of the documents, Stepien’s possession of them and their authenticity are a “foregone conclusion.” Marino disputed that conclusion.
At the hearing, Schar said he has seen documents that “make clear that it is a foregone conclusion that the subpoenaed documents exist, are in Mr. Stepien’s possession and are authentic,” according to Marino’s letter.
“I don’t need to guess as to whether we’re right as to whether there are additional documents,” Schar said at the hearing, according to the letter. “We were right, there were additional documents and we have since received them.”
Christie cut ties to Stepien in January after the committee released e-mails and texts about the lane closures. The governor also fired Kelly, who sent an e-mail a month before the lane closures that said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.’”
Tom Hester, a spokesman for state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chairman of the legislative committee, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on 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).