Governor Chris Christie has begun the appeals process regarding his alleged involvement in the 2013 Bridgegate scandal. Specifically, he is appealing a court ruling stating that he may have broken state law, according to NorthJersey.com.
In October, Judge Roy F. McGeady ruled that there was probable cause that Governor Christie was involved in official misconduct during the lane closings.
While Christie was initially supposed to appear in court on Nov. 23, this date was postponed to next year after his private attorney appealed to the state Superior Court.
If the appeal is successful, Christie’s charges could be entirely cleared.
Professor of Public and International Affairs Stanley Katz stated that it is highly unlikely that Christie will be indicted. “Given the legal situation it’s a little hard to see that they could prove he had abused the office of governor.”
Katz explained that while there have been testimonies that could prove damaging, he believes that there is not enough evidence for a prosecutor to move forward and ask for an indictment.
Christie’s motion for leave to appeal will be heard on Jan. 11, 2017. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s office has not yet stated that they will pursue an official indictment against Christie, so the case against the governor may not proceed until there is action by the prosecutor’s office.
During the Bridgegate case, also known as the Fort Lee lane closure scandal, two of three major toll lanes on George Washington Bridge were closed on Sept. 9, 2013. The resulting major traffic jams caused the town of Fort Lee to declare a threat to public safety. The lanes were re-opened on Sept. 13, 2013, and staff members of Christie’s administration are widely said to have played a role in this traffic buildup.
Last month a civilian, Bill Brennan, filed a complaint against the governor based on testimony from former political operative David Wildstein. Wildstein worked for the Christie government and was significantly involved in the lane-closure incident, according to the article.
Brennan filed an official misconduct charge against Christie, which could result in a sentence of five to ten years in prison.
During the lane closure trial, Wildstein testified that Christie was aware of the lane closures during the event itself, claiming that he spoke with Christie on Sept. 11, 2013. Christie denies any prior knowledge, according to the article.
In addition to the testimony by Wildstein, former aides to the governor Bridget Ann Kelly and Bill Baroni have both testified that Christie was aware and involved in the closure plot. During the trial, Kelly stated that she informed Christie in advance of the plan to close the Fort Lee lanes in 2013. Both Kelly and Baroni have been convicted on multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy, and additional charges, and may face up to twenty years in jail, according to an NJ.com article.
While there may not be an indictment due to the Bridgegate scandal, Christie is facing political repercussions for the scandal. Christie initially headed the transition team for the incoming national administration, but he was replaced on Friday by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. There has been speculation that President-elect Trump is unhappy with the manner in which Christie handled the Bridgegate scandal, according to a recent New York Post article.
Katz said that after this recent replacement, it is unlikely that Christie will have a substantial role in the Trump administration. He added that after Christie’s term in office is completed, his political career will essentially come to an end. The most predictable path for someone in Christie’s position would be to resume practicing law, he said.
The governor’s office could not be reached for comment.