Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

U.S. Attorney to Review Gwb Lane Closures

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

U.S. Attorney to Review Gwb Lane Closures

Article excerpt

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman has been asked to review the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September to determine whether federal laws were violated.

The review, prompted by a referral from the Port Authority Office of Inspector General, is considered a preliminary look to determine whether a full-blown investigation is warranted.

If a criminal investigation is undertaken -- which in some cases it is not -- charges in this case could range from interfering with the right of state travel to obstruction of justice and criminal negligent homicide, legislators and legal experts said Thursday. Lawsuits from commuters or business owners who were affected by the massive traffic snarl are also expected, and, in fact, one was filed Thursday.

In a press conference shortly after the U.S. attorney's review was revealed Thursday, Governor Christie apologized to the residents of Fort Lee for the lane closures. It was his first public appearance after documents were released to The Record showing a member of his staff was at the center of the lane closures.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said he hated when politicians stood behind lecterns and suggested what he, as U.S. attorney, should do. As a result, he said, he would not speculate what action Fishman should take, now that he is a politician.

Robert Del Tufo, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey and former state attorney general, said that a review, which will take a short period of time, is "a housekeeping type of thing" to determine whether to launch a grand jury investigation.

"It's just a good practice," he said. "You just don't jump in without knowing something about it."

The review, Del Tufo said, "necessarily flows from all of the events that have occurred. Any responsible federal or state official would want to look into this further to see if it warrants any further attention."

A key element for investigators could be an email sent by Bridget Anne Kelly, one of Christie's deputy chiefs of staff, to David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority, saying "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. …

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