New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been emphatic in denying he knew anything about his aides closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge, but a New Jersey judge isn't buying it.
On Oct. 13, Bergen County Court Judge Roy McGeady issued a criminal summons to the embattled Republican governor, saying the evidence points to allegations that Christie knew what his aides were doing and didn't stop them, according to the New York Post.
The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, better known as Bridgegate, has dogged Christie for more than three years. Some of Christie's aides have admitted they closed toll plaza lanes to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, as a means of punishing Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie during his 2013 re-election bid.
By closing the lanes, Christie's aides immobilized traffic on the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey to Manhattan via Fort Lee. Bill Brennan, a retired firefighter and citizen activist, filed an official misconduct complaint against the New Jersey governor, saying the weeklong lane closures cost taxpayers millions in lost productivity.
More than 106 million vehicles cross the George Washington Bridge every year, making it the world's busiest bridge crossing, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
But it wasn't just the economic impact that got Christie and his aides in hot water -- they never told emergency services in Fort Lee and New York City that the lanes would be closed, meaning police, fire vehicles and ambulances were also subject to the same traffic delays.
Political opponents said the lane closures may have contributed to the death of a 91-year-old New Jersey woman, who died in her home before delayed paramedics were able to reach her, according to CNN. But it's not clear if the woman would have survived if paramedics reached her earlier, and her own daughter told New York's WABC that she didn't think the ambulance delay was a factor in her mother's death.
Former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly and former Port Authority executive Bill Baroni both face criminal charges -- including conspiracy and fraud -- over the Bridgegate accusations. Those trials are ongoing.
A third official involved in Bridgegate, 53-year-old former Port Authority executive David Wildstein, pleaded guilty in 2015 to criminal charges. Wildstein told the court he conspired with Baroni and Kelly to close the bridge lanes as retribution against Sokolich, NJ.com reported.
Brian Murray, a spokesman for Christie, tried to discredit Brennan when reached for comment by the New York Post, saying the retired firefighter as a "serial complainant" who has "a history of abusing the judicial system." He also pointed to previous investigations into Bridgegate -- including one commissioned by Christie himself that was criticized for not interviewing key people involved in the allegations -- as proof that Christie is innocent.
“The simple fact is the governor had no knowledge of the lane realignments, either before they happened or while they were happening," Murray said. "This matter has already been thoroughly investigated by three separate independent investigations. The ruling is being appealed immediately.”
The summons is not the same as a criminal complaint, and the decision to move forward with any criminal case rests with Bergen County prosecutors. The county's acting chief prosecutor, Gurbir Grewal, was appointed to his post by Christie and would likely recuse himself if the case moves forward.
Christie is due in Bergen County court for an initial hearing on Oct. 24.