- Governor kept 3,000 documents from prosecutors, Kelly says
- Defense says no e-mails turned over from government account
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office improperly withheld thousands of documents from U.S. prosecutors investigating politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, said a lawyer for a former aide under indictment.
Christie’s office asserted the “deliberative process privilege” in withholding 3,000 documents and partially redacting another 3,000 that were turned over to prosecutors, according to a court filing this week by Michael Critchley, a lawyer for the ex-aide, Bridget Kelly.
Critchley asked a Newark federal judge to require Christie’s office to explain why it’s withholding the documents that Kelly and another ex-ally of the governor, Bill Baroni, seek to help prepare their defense. Christie, a Republican running for the White House, wasn’t charged in the scandal and denies he played any role in the lane closures.
Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, was indicted with Kelly, Christie’s ex-deputy chief of staff. They are accused of plotting with former Port Authority executive David Wildstein to close access lanes to the bridge in 2013 to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not backing Christie’s re-election. Wildstein pleaded guilty and is helping prosecutors.
Baroni’s attorney Michael Baldassare said prosecutors received private e-mails sent by Christie but not those from his official government account. Christie also used a separate e-mail account to communicate with Wildstein, according to Baldassare’s Tuesday court filing.
The e-mails and documents were turned over by the law firm representing Christie’s office, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP. The firm also produced a report that exonerated the governor and laid blame on Kelly and Wildstein for the lane closures.
“Gibson Dunn produced certain e-mails from the governor’s personal e-mail account,” according to the Baroni filing. That document production does not contain any e-mails from a separate address “through which the governor communicated with Wildstein for some period of time.”
Gibson Dunn didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail seeking comment on the filings. Kevin Roberts, Christie’s spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed questions.
The law firm “did not produce a single e-mail on behalf of the governor from a government e-mail address,” Baldassare wrote.
“Either Gibson Dunn concluded that no e-mails from Governor Christie’s official government e-mail account were responsive to the subpoena (which seems highly unlikely) or Governor Christie did not use a government e-mail account during the relevant time period,” Baldassare wrote.
Baldassare also asserted that Wildstein stole Baroni’s computer hard drive in December 2013 before he left the Port Authority, which operates the bridge. He later gave that hard drive to the government, according to the filing.
The case is U.S. v. Baroni, 15-cr-00193, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).