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Person on bridge conspiracy list wants it kept from public

John O'Connell, Wikipedia


Someone included in a list set to be released of people involved in the 2013 lane closures in New Jersey near the George Washington Bridge filed a court motion late Thursday asking a judge to intervene anonymously to oppose its release, arguing it would unfairly brand them a criminal.

The motion asks a federal judge to let the person identified as John Doe intervene to stop the release of a list of unindicted co-conspirators the government has been ordered to release by Friday at noon after a media request from organizations including The Associated Press.

The motion says the man will be "publicly branded a felon without due process of law, causing him immediate and irreparable reputational harm."   It was filed by attorney Jenny Kramer, of the high-profile New York firm Chadbourne and Parke. It wasn't immediately clear if Judge Susan Wigenton would rule on the motion before the documents were released.

Bruce Rosen, an attorney for the media companies, said they will oppose the motion. He said the motion lays out the same privacy issues that a judge already ruled against.   The motion came hours before the scheduled release of the document and on the same day the organizations asked federal prosecutors to release a separate list which reportedly shows the names of any people who may have known about the 2013 lane closures near the George Washington Bridge but weren't criminally charged.

The second list could include people who weren't considered co-conspirators but knew about the plans to close access lanes to the bridge in September 2013. Both lists have already been shared with defense lawyers for two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie charged in the scandal.

Bridget Kelly, Christie's then-deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a top Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that operates the bridge, face federal wire fraud and civil rights charges and are scheduled for trial this fall.

They are alleged to have engineered the lane closures to create traffic jams in nearby Fort Lee, whose mayor had declined to endorse Christie for re-election. Both have pleaded not guilty and have sought to have the charges dismissed. Christie has not been charged and has denied knowledge of the closures.

The U.S. attorney's office, which brought the indictment against Baroni and Kelly, had opposed the release of the names over individual privacy concerns.  Kramer wrote in her motion that while the public "undoubtedly has an interest" in the case against Baroni and Kelly, it doesn't have a comparable interest in knowing her client's identity.  "To the extent any unindicted coconspirator has taken any action relevant to the criminal case, that conduct and the actor's identity will be learned at trial, in proper context," she wrote. "Given this fact, the opposition by the press to any anonymous treatment cannot be legitimately motivated; rather, it is undoubtedly actuated- at least in part-for purposes of sensationalizing the misleading inferences that will be gleaned from Doe's status as an "unindicted co-conspirator."

Rosen said he has requested a copy of the second list, which was created by federal investigators. He said the organizations will seek a court order to release the document if prosecutors don't provide it.  Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, initially requested the names in a filing in early March, a few weeks after a footnote in a government filing referred to individuals "who may have had knowledge of the conspiracy or took actions that happened to further its goals" but did not join the conspiracy.  A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment Thursday on the media request.