NJ panel: Christie aide should turn over papers
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A judge should not allow New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s two-time campaign manager a blanket refusal to comply with a subpoena from a state legislative panel investigating a political payback scandal, lawyers for the panel said in a court filing Friday.
The lawyers say that in order to claim privilege, witnesses like Bill Stepien must raise specific objections to particular requests or questions.
Instead, the lawyers say Stepien is trying to “have it both ways,” by arguing that the subpoena is too broad when it asks for records of his conversations with certain people, and too narrow when it asks that he self-select documents related to an apparent plot by Christie aides to tie up traffic near the George Washington Bridge.
If granted, Stepien’s claim against self-incrimination would eviscerate the government’s ability to use subpoenas to conduct investigations, the lawyers argue.
Stepien and fired Christie aide Bridget Kelly are fighting efforts by the special legislative investigative committee to force them to hand over more documents about the September lane closings that caused massive traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee, and have ensnared Christie, a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Oral arguments are set for Tuesday.
Kelly’s lawyer also filed papers Friday, asserting there’s a “real and substantial threat” of self-incrimination if she gives over what state lawmakers have requested.
In the filing, Kelly’s lawyers say federal authorities have requested interviews with Kelly, her parents, her ex-husband and former in-laws. The lawyers say none of them has been willing to talk.
Christie fired Kelly in January after her text message saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” was made public.
The court documents are similar to those filed earlier this week on behalf of Stepien. He, too, has been pursued by federal authorities as they investigate possible criminal wrongdoing.
Like Stepien, Kelly is relying largely on her right not to incriminate herself by giving information to the lawmakers. To do that, her lawyer, Michael Critchley, is asserting that she could be subject to a criminal prosecution. Critchley argued in the court filing that the right not to self-incriminate extends to documents as well as testimony, and that even confirming whether certain documents exist could subject her to prosecution.
More than a dozen other people and organizations close to Christie have complied with documents subpoenas from the legislative panel, which is sifting through thousands of pages of materials.
There has been no evidence directly linking Christie to the planning or execution of the plot.
Associated Press reporter Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield contributed to this report.
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