Judges to weigh release of bridge case conspirators list

This May 30, 2014 file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Terry Wyatt, File)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday in a dispute over whether the government should release a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case.

A judge in Newark ordered the list released last month but an unidentified person filed to block its release, saying he will be branded a criminal even though he hasn’t been charged.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Monday in Philadelphia. It isn’t known when the court will publish its ruling.

Two former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were indicted last year for allegedly orchestrating traffic jams near the bridge in 2013 as political payback against a Democratic mayor who didn’t support the Republican governor’s re-election.

Former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni, a former executive (and Christie appointee) at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bridge’s operator, are scheduled for trial in September.

Media organizations including The Associated Press filed a motion with the court in Newark in January seeking access to the co-conspirator list, claiming it is part of the public record in the criminal case.

Speculation about the identities of those on the list intensified after someone identified only as John Doe filed to stop the list’s publication last month, after U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton ordered its release.

Christie, who hasn’t been charged and has disavowed any knowledge of the alleged scheme, has said it is highly doubtful he is on the list. A taxpayer-financed probe by a law firm hired by Christie cleared him of wrongdoing, a conclusion roundly criticized by Democrats in New Jersey as a whitewash.

The scandal dogged Christie through his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and has provided fodder for late-night talk show comedians

Heightened scrutiny of the Port Authority in the wake of the scandal has led to investigations by the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey, the Manhattan D.A.’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission into the authority’s business practices.

Jenny Kramer, who worked under Christie when Christie was U.S. attorney in New Jersey, will argue Monday on behalf of John Doe that the list wasn’t formally filed with the court but was given by prosecutors to defense attorneys as part of a routine pre-trial sharing of evidence, called discovery, and isn’t subject to public access.

Current U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman will argue for the government, which also has opposed the release of the list.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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