By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
David Samson has stopped cooperating with the legislature’s select committee.
In a letter to the committee Friday, his attorneys said he is asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
“Frankly, it strikes me as almost a no-brainer,” said Defense Attorney Joseph Hayden.
Hayden says that with the U.S. Attorney’s Office conducting a simultaneous investigation, Samson’s lawyers are doing the prudent thing.
“An attorney doesn’t want to waive constitutional rights. You can’t un-scramble the eggs and what it suggests to me is that is this an interpretation or decision by Michael Chertoff, that however significant the legislative committee is, the main event is the federal grand jury investigation. We are now playing chess, not checkers,” Hayden said.
Today was the deadline for the legislative committee to turn over all the documents it has acquired to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The committee complied.
The federal grand jury hearing the bridge case meets on Fridays at the Newark federal courthouse. Samson’s legal team says the legislative committee has become nothing more than a conduit to the grand jury and federal prosecutors.
In their letter, Michael Chertoff and Angelo Genova write: “The statements and behavior of certain committee members thus far, as well as the fact that numerous law enforcement agencies are conducting investigations, present a classic case of a situation in which an innocent man might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”
A high-level Democrat we spoke to said an innocent man doesn’t plead the fifth.
We asked Committee Co-chairman John Wisniewski.
“Well, that’s always an implication of taking the Fifth Amendment. The attorneys will assert their client has done nothing wrong and that may be the case. It’s part of a legal strategy that the attorneys are advising their client of and are entitled to, and the client ought to listen to the advice of theit attorney,” Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski’s committee starts a new round of hearings tomorrow morning, with testimony from former Governor’s Office staffer Christina Renna.
Committee Co-chair Loretta Weinberg said, “What was the atmosphere that was set up, the environment that this administration worked under? Certainly learning more about the Inter Governmental Relations Office, I think will start opening a window to that.”
Samson, the former Port Authority chairman, has been linked by emails to the bridge scandal aftermath and has been accused by critics of conflicts of interest. He had a sterling reputation before all this. His legal team is trying to repair that.