Key figure in NJ scandal surfaces for hearing

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 12, 2014 at 5:22 am •  Published: March 12, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A key figure in a political payback investigation involving Gov. Chris Christie's administration voluntarily came to court to watch lawyers argue over whether her subpoena from a legislative investigatory panel should be quashed.

A lawyer said Bridget Kelly, the former Christie aide at the center of a plot to block traffic near the George Washington Bridge, wanted to show she's not hiding from the scandal.

"She's not someone who's running away and living the life of a hermit," lawyer Michael Critchley said outside the Mercer County courthouse Tuesday after the nearly three-hour proceeding.

Kelly, who had not appeared in public since Christie fired her in early January, was rushed by reporters and camera crews as she arrived and left the courthouse. She did not comment. The jobless and divorced mother of four appeared near tears as Critchley described how her life had been upended by the case.

Bill Stepien, the other ex-Christie loyalist fighting a subpoena, was not in court.

Lawyers for Kelly and Stepien said their clients risk self-incrimination if they comply with the subpoenas for documents related to the traffic jams.

The lawyers partially based their Fifth Amendment claims on a parallel criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney's office, which is seeking to uncover whether federal laws were broken. The legislative panel, which lacks authority to prosecute, wants to find out how high up Christie's chain of command the lane-closing scheme went and why it was hatched.

A lawyer for the legislative panel investigating the plot countered that the law does not entitle them to the blanket protection they seek. Rather, any documents deemed potentially incriminating by Kelly and Stepien should be argued on a case-by-case basis, the lawyer said.

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson isn't expected to rule before the end of the month.

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