In reaction to a report released by attorneys representing the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), an attorney representing former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien has issued a statement saying allegations contained in the report masked “the injustice” done to his client.
The report released Thursday concluded that Stepien knew in advance about the plan to close George Washington Bridge access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., but that he did not know about the “ulterior motive” behind the closures. In January, in response to the release of documents related to the scandal, Christie asked Stepien to leave his role as a consultant to the Republican Governors’ Association, and to take his name out of the running for chairman of New Jersey’s Republican Party.
“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,” attorney Kevin Marino said in his statement issued Thursday, referring to Randy Mastro, the defense attorney who lead the investigation for the governor’s office. “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 criticized the report for including a “gratuitous reference” to a relationship between Stepien and Bridget Kelly, another former Christie aide who has been more directly implicated in the lane closures. The report stated that Stepien and Kelly became “personally involved” between April and August 2013. Marino’s statement described a “brief dating relationship” which ended before the lane closures began.
“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 said.
Marino also criticized the report for making suggestions about his client’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to the legislative investigation looking into the lane closures.
“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,” Marino said. “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.”