On Thursday night, Kevin Marino, an attorney for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, sent out a scathing review of a report on the allegations surrounding the administration’s handling of last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that was prepared by lawyers hired by the governor’s office.
Marino said the report, which was compiled by a team of attorneys with the firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher that was led by Randy Mastro and released Thuesday morning, contained no evidence to support the “injustice” done to Stepien when Christie decided to sever ties with him in January after documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey Legislature showed Stepien was involved in discussions about the lane shutdown.
“One will search the 360-page Mastro report in vain for a jot of evidence to support the Governor’s decision to sever ties with Bill Stepien. The investigation, in which Mr. Stepien did not cooperate, found that he had no involvement in the origination, planning, execution, or concealment of the lane closures and that he did not lie to or deceive anyone at any time about his limited knowledge of the subject, including the Governor,” Marino said. “There is simply no support for the notion, implied by his summary banishment, that Mr. Stepien was somehow blameworthy in this incident. He was not.”
Marino had particularly harsh words for the reports revelation Stepien was involved in a “personal relationship” with Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly.
“The report’s inclusion of a gratuitous reference to Mr. Stepien’s brief dating relationship with Bridget Anne Kelly — which began after he left the Governor’s office, ended before the lane closure debacle began, and took place at a time when both he and Ms. Kelly were single — is a regrettable distraction that has no place in this report,” said Marino. “Predictably, that has become a tabloid headline, masking the injustice done to Mr. Stepien and distracting the public from those aspects of the report that would otherwise have commanded its attention.”
Marino concluded by rejecting the notion Stepien’s refusal to cooperate with the internal review and other investigators implies he is guilty.
“Finally, the report’s statement that it is permissible to draw an adverse inference from Mr. Stepien’s invocation of his fifth amendment right in the face of a criminal investigation, rather than in the context of civil litigation, is dead wrong as a matter of law,” Marino said. “Mr. Stepien is an innocent man who will continue to avail himself of the rights assured him under the constitution and laws of the United States and the State of New Jersey. It is simply not right for a seasoned and talented team of former federal prosecutors to suggest that the public should read his reliance on those rights as evidence of wrongdoing. It is not.”
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