The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is set to consider a motion from a coalition of media companies that calls for the release of a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the criminal prosecution of the “Bridgegate” scandal.
The release of the list, called a Conspiracy Letter, would reveal for the first time the full extent of the “Bridgegate” conspiracy in the Christie administration, naming individuals who participated in some capacity in the plan to close lanes of traffic in the main toll plaza on the George Washington Bridge back in September 2013.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Wigenton ordered the release of a list of individuals connected to the conspiracy in May. The court agreed with a consortium of media companies who argued that freedom of the press and freedom of information outweighed the privacy rights of individuals connected to the investigation. Both the federal government, and an anonymous person named “John Doe” in court documents who is named in the Letter, argued against its release. (RELATED: Christie: ‘No Knowledge Or Involvement’ In Bridgegate Scandal)
“There is very little that is private about the lane closures or the lives of the people allegedly connected to them,” Wigenton wrote in her order. “Further, individuals thus far identified as being involved in the lane closings have been public employees and/or elected and appointed officials, and anyone named in the Conspiracy Letter is likely to hold a similar position.”
An anonymous person named in the Conspiracy Letter appealed the decision to the Third Circuit, arguing the list’s release will lead to his irreparable harm, and that he will not have access to a forum or process by which to defend his reputation.
“The district court’s opinion is irreconcilable with decades of case law holding that the Government violates an individual’s right to due process when it publicly brands him a criminal without any compelling governmental justification for doing so,” his lawyer wrote.
Being named in a Conspiracy Letter does not generally render an individual a criminal. They are usually used in criminal proceedings for purposes of presenting evidence in court. Even if the Third Circuit overrules the district court ruling, the names of many individuals named on the list will likely be released during the course of the criminal trials of William Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, former Christie aides who have been indicted for conspiracy and fraud for their alleged involvement with the scandal. (RELATED: Christie Fails To Explain 9 Credit Downgrades In New Jersey As Governor [VIDEO])
Arguments for the motion will be heard Monday. A decision is expected to follow quickly.
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