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Federal judge delays releasing names of Bridgegate conspirators

A federal judge Friday put the brakes on releasing the names of the suspected Bridgegate conspirators.
Morning rush hour in the George Washington Bridge. (Photo by Q. Sakamaki/Redux for MSNBC)
Morning rush hour in the George Washington Bridge.

A federal judge Friday put the brakes on releasing the names of the suspected Bridgegate conspirators.

Judge Susan Wigenton delayed the release until Tuesday after lawyers for a "John Doe" filed a last-minute motion to stop it from being revealed.

They contended that would unfairly tar their client as part of a criminal conspiracy to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Gov. Chris Christie's re-election by deliberately tying up traffic on the George Washington Bridge. They noted that this person had not been charged with a crime.

It's a long shot. Wigenton, in her earlier ruling, pointed out that the names on the list belong to people for "whom the Government has sufficient evidence to designate as having joined the conspiracy."

The judge added that while "privacy for third-parties is indeed important," she said that was outweighed in this case by the public's right to know about the shocking scandal that arguably put a big dent in the once-popular Republican governor's presidential ambitions.

Wigenton had ordered the list released on Tuesday after a consortium of media outlets that includes NBC Universal pushed to make it public. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman could have appealed the decision. Notably, he didn't.

Christie has already said it's "highly doubtful" his name is on the list. But most of the people suspected of being part of the scheme are believed to be his allies.

And that puts Christie, who has long insisted he had nothing to do with the politically damaging scandal, in a tough spot — especially now that he's leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's transition team.

Two of Christie's associates have already been charged by the feds in connection with the scheme to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich in September 2013 by deliberately turning the bridge that connects the mayor's town to New York City into a parking lot.

They are Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff.

Wigenton is presiding over their trial, which starts in September.

Another Christie appointee, Port Authority official David Wildstein, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy last May and is cooperating with prosecutors. 

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