Prosecutors want evidence in lane-closure trial kept private
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case want to keep evidence they've gathered over the last year and a half from being made public.
The U.S. attorney's office in Newark filed a motion Tuesday seeking a protective order for the evidence, referred to as discovery materials, which it described as more than 1.5 million pages of "records, emails, computer data, recordings, telephone records, texts, financial records, materials obtained pursuant to search warrants, the affidavits in support of those search warrants, and other items."
Two former political allies of Gov. Chris Christie face charges in the case, including wire fraud and deprivation of civil rights. Bridget Kelly was his former deputy chief of staff. Bill Baroni was one of his appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Former Port Authority official David Wildstein, a Christie associate, pleaded guilty this month and said he, Baroni and Kelly concocted the scheme to close access lanes to the bridge from Fort Lee to punish the town's Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid in 2013.
The closures plunged Fort Lee into gridlock for four days in September 2013 before the Port Authority's executive director ordered the lanes reopened.
Christie wasn't charged in the case and has denied involvement, though the incident has dogged him as he considers a run for president in 2016.
The government is obligated under rules of evidence to turn over discovery materials to the defense. Tuesday's filing seeks to bar defense attorneys from releasing it publicly and to require them to notify prosecutors if they plan to use any of the evidence to file a pretrial motion, so the government would have the opportunity to file an objection.
"The proposed protective order is meant to prevent the unnecessary public disclosure of the Discovery Materials for purposes unrelated to the preparation of the defense and to avoid the risk that potentially private information reaches the public, especially when so much of it pertains to uncharged individuals," prosecutors wrote.
Baroni's attorney said he would oppose the filing.
"The prosecutors held a two-hour press conference during which they pushed their one-sided version of events," Michael Baldassare said. "Now, when it comes time to back it up with evidence, they ask a federal judge to give them cover. This demand for secrecy is as troubling as it is telling. We will fight this motion with all means available."
Kelly's attorney didn't respond to a request for comment.