A New Jersey judge has denied a request to appoint a special prosecutor in a citizen's official misconduct complaint against Gov. Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol dismissed activist Bill Brennan's request that a special prosecutor be appointed in the investigation into the governor, saying that the Wayne resident lacked the standing to make such a request.
Brennan, a former Teaneck firefighter, filed a complaint earlier this year alleging that Christie failed to order subordinates to reopen the bridge access lanes from Fort Lee after it became clear that the September 2013 lane closures were adversely affecting the flow of traffic. A different judge ruled that there was probable cause to let the complaint go forward in October.
He slammed the judge's decision Friday, vowing a new line of attack to be launched early next week.
"An obvious conflict of interest was argued and established in open court," Brennan said in a statement. "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."
Christie has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and was never charged in the scheme to create traffic jams on the country's busiest bridge as political payback to a mayor who didn't endorse the governor's re-election. Two former Christie allies were recently convicted in the case, and a third earlier pleaded guilty and testified against them.
They testified during a federal trial in September and October that Christie was told about the lane closures — if not necessarily the motive behind them — ahead of time and while they were ongoing.
Brennan, representing himself, argued Wednesday that a special prosecutor is needed to remove the appearance of a conflict of interest. Attorney General Chris Porrino and Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, both appointed by Christie, have recused themselves from the case, but Brennan argued that their subordinates also should be recused. Grewal's subordinates are not appointees.
"The conflict is real and it's palpable. They're all on the same side, figuratively, literally and visually," he said as he pointed to lawyers representing the prosecutor's office, attorney general's office and Christie.
Attorney Craig Carpenito, representing Christie, accused Brennan of grandstanding and "seeking to prolong his 15 minutes in the public eye." The attorney general's office has argued that Brennan, as a citizen making a complaint, doesn't have the standing to call for a special prosecutor and that there is no legislative mechanism to appoint one. Carpenito said Brennan's claims that assistant county prosecutors couldn't be fair "insults the process."
Brennan contended the case is novel because it involves a sitting governor as a defendant and has no guiding legal precedent.
He told Mizdol "the eyes of the world are on this courtroom" and urged her to grant his motion so that "then, and only then, will the citizens believe the governor is being held to the same standards as everyone else."