Feds Side With Bridgegate Co-Conspirator To Keep His Identity Secret
Who helped the indicted Bridgegate conspirators close the lanes to the George Washington Bridge?
WNYC and other media organizations are seeking a single document: A January letter sent by Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, to a federal judge that lists alleged Bridgegate co-conspirators. The request went before a federal appellate court in Philadelphia on Monday.
In front of a crowded courtroom that included Bill Baroni, one of the defendants in the case, and New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat who led the Bridgegate hearings in the Legislature, Fishman urged three appellate judges to keep such lists confidential. He said they are part of the discovery materials that prosecutors and defense attorneys shared in advance of September's trial.
Last month,a lower court judge ordered the list released, saying it was a public document. But one person on that list — an anonymous man who was represented by attorney Jenny Kramer of Chadbourne & Parke — appealed, saying his reputation would be forever ruined if his identity was revealed. In Monday's court hearing, Fishman, representing the U.S. government, said releasing names of those who have not been charged with crimes would set a precedent in which reputations could be needlessly ruined.
It was unusual for Fishman to argue the matter himself, as opposed to having an assistant U.S. attorney address the court.
The three judges aggressively questioned Fishman, Kramer and the attorney for the media, Bruce Rosen, of McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen & Carvelli. The judges wanted to know why Fishman hadn't appealed the initial ruling releasing the list and instead left it up to the anonymous co-conspirator, dubbed John Doe. Judges also seemed to be entertaining the possibility of releasing the list of the other alleged co-conspirators and redacting John Doe's real name.
Rosen told the judges that the public's right to know whether public officials were believed to be involved in this conspiracy trumped concerns about the co-conspirators' reputations.