A U.S. grand jury probing the George Washington Bridge scandal subpoenaed a lawyer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with close ties to Governor Chris Christie, two people familiar with the matter said.
Phillip Kwon, a deputy general counsel at the Port Authority, was summoned to appear before a panel probing the politically motivated traffic jams last September in Fort Lee, New Jersey, said the people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the subpoena because it isn’t public.
Several other officials at the Port Authority, which runs the bridge, have also been contacted by prosecutors working for U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, one of the people said. Fishman is investigating whether crimes were committed in the lane closings. The pace of the probe is increasing as investigators assemble documents and talk to possible witnesses, the person said.
Kwon played a behind-the-scenes role after the traffic tie-ups by helping prepare testimony to the state Assembly Transportation Committee by William Baroni, the Port Authority’s former deputy executive director. Baroni told lawmakers on Nov. 25 that closing two of three local access lanes to the bridge from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12 was part of a traffic study.
The Port Authority has never produced a formal traffic study, and Democrats in the state legislature remain skeptical. They say that explanation is a ruse to hide the true reason for the lane closings -- that the tie-ups were designed to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who didn’t back the re-election last fall of Christie, a Republican.
Kwon worked for 10 years as a federal prosecutor, including the seven-year period when Christie was U.S. attorney. He later worked as a first assistant attorney general in New Jersey, and Christie nominated him to serve on the state Supreme Court.
Kwon would have been the first Asian-American on the court. The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected him by a 7-6 vote in March 2012. Christie called his rejection a “disgrace.” Kwon later joined the Port Authority.
Kwon attorney Geoffrey Berman and Fishman spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael declined to comment.
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail for comment on the subpoena.
The Kwon subpoena was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.