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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces criminal summons over 'Bridgegate'

Christie has been charged with complicity after allies admitted deliberately causing traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge in 2013. If indicted, the governor faces a possible sentence of five to 10 years.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces a criminal summons over his role in the 'Bridgegate scandal, a state judge ruled on Thursday.

Christie allies have been accused of orchestrating lane closures and traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge between New York City and New Jersey in 2013 as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing the governor's re-election bid. 

The official misconduct complaint, filed last month by well-known activist Bill Brennan, alleges that Christie "knowingly refrained from ordering that his subordinates take all necessary action to re-open local access lanes."

The complaint will now be referred to the Bergen County prosecutor's office. Prosecuters will decide whether it should lead to an indictment ruling against Christie. He is formally accused of "knowingly refraining from performing a duty as Governor imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office," a Municipal Court administrative specialist said. 

Official misconduct is considered a second-degree offence is New Jersey and can carry a possible sentence of five to 10 years.

Christie has defended himself, saying he did not know of the plot. His spokesman, Brian Murray, said that the ruling is being appealed. "The simple fact is the governor had no knowledge of the lane realignments either before they happened or while they were happening," Murray said.

An official court appearance is scheduled for October 24. 

'Bridgegate'

Two of Christie's allies - his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni – are currently on trial in a Newark Federal Court for their alleged roles in the scandal.

However, Brennan's complaint is based on testimony from another port authority executive, David Wildstein, who claims that Christie was aware of the closures at the time. Wildstein has plead guilty for conceiving and executing the scheme, and is now cooperating with prosecutors.

The scandal was a big stain in Christie's failed bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. After withdrawing from the race, he endorsed Donald Trump for the candidacy. Having become a significant figure in the Trump camp, Christie was considered a frontrunner for the running mate position before narrowly losing out to Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

dm/jm (AP, Reuters)