By Brenda Flanagan
No special prosecutor, no comment. Gov. Chris Christie ignored repeated questions about a Bergen County judge’s decision to deny requests for a special prosecutor in the Bridgegate complaint filed against Christie by a former firefighter.
Longtime Christie critic Bill Brennan’s criminal complaint accuses the governor of official misconduct. Brennan claims testimony in the Bridgegate trial shows Christie knew about the plot to close the George Washington Bridge and didn’t act to stop it. But Judge Bonnie Mizdol today denied Brennan’s motion for a special prosecutor. Instead the case will be handled by assistants in the office of the Bergen County prosecutor and the state attorney general, who were both appointed by Christie. Brennan had argued it’s a conflict of interest.
“There’s no such thing as a firewall from a floor above. You can’t firewall off somebody who you control,” Brennan said. “It is a conflict. No reasonable person could believe that the subordinate to any of these people could be impartial, and aggressively pursue a charge against the most powerful governor in the country.”
Today, Judge Mizdol ruled, “This court is mindful of the heightened concern for conflict when a governor is facing criminal prosecution by the very state he is tasked to govern. However, this court is duty-bound to uphold our constitution, statutes, case law and court rules; none of which convey standing upon Brennan.”
Brennan’s caustic response: “Judge Mizdol’s refusal to address that clear conflict was an act of judicial cowardice, her reputation will never recover. Defendant Christie has nothing to celebrate, this is not over.”
“What the judge did was punted and gave a technical reason for not making a decision,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak.
Brennan’s supporter Lesniak has sponsored a bill that would mandate special prosecutors in a case like this one.
“The public has to have confidence in the judicial system, that a governor is not above the law. And when a governor has been charged with the serious crime of official misconduct, there has to be an impartial prosecution of that crime,” Lesniak said.
While the federal Bridgegate case ended in conviction for two of Christie’s closest aides, the governor was never indicted and legislative hearings didn’t conclusively connect him to the political retribution scheme.
“I’m done with this. This is over. The people of New Jersey are done with it. It’s over,” Christie said during the Nov. 21 edition of Ask the Governor.
But Brennan’s got more to say. He’s called a press conference for this coming Monday to unveil his next move — possibly an interlocutory appeal. Christie’s lawyers say he’s just seeking the limelight.