Class-action suit filed against Christie in N.J. bridge scandal

Jan. 10, 2014 at 1:13 AM
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NEWARK, N.J., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Six New Jerseyans caught in the George Washington Bridge traffic jams, filed a class-action suit against Gov. Chris Christie, saying he took away their liberty.

The class-action complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, says six people who live in Fort Lee and nearby towns were "deprived of life, liberty and property for several hours" due to roadblocks thrown up near the bridge from Sept. 9 to Sept. 13, attorney Rosemarie Arnold said.

Emails and text messages between Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and two top officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge, indicate the lanes were shut down deliberately to create auto gridlock in the town across the Hudson River from New York City.

The communications indicate Port Authority official David Wildstein imposed the traffic jams to punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for not endorsing Republican Christie for re-election.

The lawsuit calls the alleged scheme a "conspiracy" and "willful, wanton, arbitrary and egregious official misconduct," the Record of Hackensack reported.

The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages on the grounds the roadblocks violated their constitutional rights to due process and freedom of movement.

As a class-action case, the suit can include "any and all individuals and business owners" inconvenienced or hurt by the lane closures, the complaint states.

Named as defendants besides Christie are Kelly, who Christie fired Thursday, Wildstein, former Port Authority official Bill Baroni, the Port Authority itself and the state of New Jersey.

Wildstein and Baroni, who were both recommended to the port positions by Christie, resigned in December after port officials testified in a legislative hearing the men had sought to hide their plans for the lane closings from Fort Lee officials, police and even other Port Authority officials.

Christie apologized Thursday for the closures, saying he was blindsided by the news. He said his staff didn't tell him about why the lanes were closed.

Before the release of the emails and texts, Christie dismissed allegations anyone in his administration was involved in the decision to close the bridge lanes.

"The defendants in this case were looking to do some serious damage to the residents of Fort Lee. By crippling the town on the first day of school, that's exactly what they accomplished and that's what they're getting sued for," Arnold said.

None of the defendants had any immediate comment on the lawsuit.

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