Media companies seek access to bridge lane closure case list
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A group of news organizations on Wednesday asked a federal judge to release a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the George Washington Bridge lane closure case.
The filing, by The Associated Press and eight other organizations in federal court in Newark, seeks the list of people prosecutors believe were involved but not charged in the conspiracy to close traffic lanes for political retribution in New Jersey. The list had been submitted by prosecutors to defense lawyers and the judge.
Aides to Republican Gov. Chris Christie were accused of engineering the traffic jams at one of the world’s busiest bridges in September 2013 by ordering lane closings in Fort Lee to punish its mayor, a Democrat who didn’t support Christie for re-election. The lane closures caused four days of massive traffic jams.
Two former Christie allies, Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly, have pleaded not guilty in the case. Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein pleaded guilty. Christie, a 2016 presidential candidate, has repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the scheme, and a taxpayer-funded report he commissioned absolved him of wrongdoing.
The media filing says the public has a right to know about the prosecutors’ list because the people on it likely are public employees or appointed officials and the allegations may impact Christie’s presidential campaign.
Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldassare, said in a letter to Judge Susan Wigenton on Tuesday that prosecutors cited the “sensitive nature” of the information and federal guidelines on identifying uncharged third parties for keeping the list sealed. He also is opposed to the government’s attempt to keep the list sealed.
The prosecutors’ office has a policy of not identifying unindicted co-conspirators in any case, office spokesman Will Skaggs said. That’s consistent with guidelines issued by the Department of Justice, he said.
The other media companies involved are North Jersey Media Group Inc., The New York Times Co., NBC Universal Media, Bloomberg LP, New Jersey Advance Media, Dow Jones & Co. Inc. and New York and New Jersey public radio.