March 4, 2014 5:45 am -

0114A_Stepien_RLR_35pThe NJ guv’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepian, asserted his fifth amendment rights today in response to a subpoena from a legislative committee investigating lane closings on the Fort Lee side of the George Washington Bridge last September. Grab the popcorn – at this rate this will play out all year.

Governor Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien appears to be a target of a federal criminal investigation, his lawyer said in a court filing on Monday, describing recent unannounced visits and phone calls by federal agents who went so far as to ask Stepien’s landlord if he was a rowdy tenant and paid rent on time.

The revelations were another signal that federal prosecutors are looking closely into politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and whether they were ordered by officials who were once in the governor’s inner circle. Stepien’s attorney wrote that his client is innocent of any wrongdoing.

The court filing came in a civil case that will determine if Stepien must provide documents subpoenaed by a legislative committee conducting its own investigation into the lane closures. The case has forced Stepien’s lawyer into an awkward position: arguing that Stepien should not have to provide the documents to lawmakers because he is the subject of the federal probe.

Stepien has invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in response to the legislative subpoena, and the dispute has gone before a state Superior Court judge in Mercer County who will hear arguments next Tuesday. The court case is the most significant test yet of the investigative power of state lawmakers who have subpoena power and are demanding documents against the backdrop of a high-stakes federal investigation.

The attorney for another central figure in the scandal, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, said Monday that his client and her parents had also been approached by federal agents. Kelly and her family members declined to talk to them, said attorney Michael Critchley. Kelly, who wrote in an email to a Port Authority executive, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” weeks before local access lanes to the bridge were shut, is also fighting a legislative subpoena for documents.

Her lawyer said Monday he expects her to appear in court next Tuesday, in what will be one of her first public appearances since the scandal broke in January.
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D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.