New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a federal investigation looming over him as he contemplates a run for president.
News of the investigation broke on Feb. 4, when two criminal investigators from the Department of Justice interviewed Bennett Barlyn, a former assistant prosecutor in New Jersey's Hunterdon County. Barlyn claims he was fired for objecting to Christie's dismissal of grand jury indictments.
Barlyn's story began in 2008, when his office won 43 indictments against Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, who was alledgedly not exercising proper background checks when hiring employees, as mandated by state law. Then, Christie's administration intervened, arguing against the indictments and having them overturned, saying the were legally deficient. Barlyn objected and was subsequently fired in August 2010, without an explanation.
“I asked for one and was told that I wasn't entitled to an explanation,” Barlyn said. “I gave up my access to the building. I returned home again completely in the dark although I had a feeling of what precipitated the dismissal. My Internet connection to the office was cut off. And three weeks later I received a one-page faxed dismissal letter from the director of the Division of Criminal Justice. Again, no reason was given of why I was terminated after 18 years of being ... a state and county prosecutor with a pretty good rep.”
Barlyn went on to file a whistle blower case against the administration. He claims Christie's office intervened because of political connections between Trout and Christie. Trout was the director of an association of law enforcement officials that backed Christie when he ran for governor.
“Based on all the evidence, the reasons given by the Christie administration to throw these charges out against the governor's allies were deliberately intended to mislead the judge," Barlyn told the International Business Times. "The transcripts from the grand jury proceedings prove that the Christie administration deceived the court to stop the prosecution, which is the definition of obstructing justice."
The Justice Department can subpoena those records in a criminal investigation. However, there is no certainty that charges will be filed.
Christie's office declined to comment but has said previously Barlyn's accusations are “conspiratorial nonsense.”