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No special prosecutor for Bridgegate complaint against N.J.'s Christie: judge

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey judge on Friday ruled for the third time that a special prosecutor will not be appointed to investigate a citizen's criminal complaint against Governor Chris Christie over the Bridgegate lane-closure scandal.

The decision from state Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol may finally close the book on the official misconduct complaint filed in September by retired firefighter and activist Bill Brennan, though Brennan vowed to appeal.

The complaint accused Christie of knowing about a plot to shut down access lanes at the busy George Washington Bridge in September 2013 as an act of retribution against a local mayor who declined to endorse the governor's re-election campaign.

Two former Christie associates, Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni, were convicted in November of orchestrating the scheme, while a third, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty and appeared as a prosecution witness at trial.

Christie, who was not charged, has denied any involvement or wrongdoing, but the three associates all testified at trial that the governor was at least aware of the closures at the time.

The scandal helped scuttle Christie's presidential run and damaged his political standing in New Jersey.

A municipal court judge found probable cause for Brennan's complaint to be referred to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. But prosecutors decided not to pursue the case, saying it would be impossible to secure a conviction.

Brennan, who has announced a run for governor, argued that a special prosecutor was needed to avoid obvious conflicts of interest.

But Mizdol ruled that Brennan had no standing to question prosecutors' decision as a private citizen and pointed out that the Bergen County prosecutor, who is appointed by Christie, had recused himself from the case.

"It is the responsibility of the prosecutor to investigate and prosecute crimes," she wrote. "The role of the victim or the concerned citizen is to report knowledge of criminal activities to law enforcement."

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

 

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