New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie’s spotty driving record is one thing. But what’s worse is that he may have violated clear Justice Department guidelines by pulling rank with cops on the scene.
Today we learned about a 2002 episode in which Christie hit a motorcyclist after making a wrong-turn that had him briefly going the wrong way down a one-way street in Elizabeth. The motorcyclist ended up in hospital, but Christie didn’t get so much as a ticket. And a police official told the Star Ledger that Christie “did identify himself as U.S. attorney.”That would seem to contravene Justice Department guidelines on standards of conduct, which state:
Use of Title. With rare exceptions, employees engage in outside activities in their private rather than official capacities. Therefore, when engaging in outside activities in their private capacity, employees may not indicate or represent in any way that they are acting on behalf of the Department, or that they are acting in their official capacity.
But wait! According to the Star-Ledger, Christie was on his way to the swearing-in of the Union County prosecutor at the time of the accident. That means that he could at least make the case that the standards might not apply in this case, since he wasn’t engaging in an outside activity in a private capacity.
But that’s not the only dodgy driving Christie incident we’ve learned about lately. In 2005, Christie was cited for speeding and for driving in an unregistered, uninsured vehicle after being pulled over by cops in Lambertville. The local police director has said that, as in the Elizabeth case, Christie “identified himself” as a U.S. attorney.
And in this case, Christie almost certainly wasn’t acting in an official capacity. He’s said he was with his family and his deputy, Michele Brown, and that the group was on its way to a University of Delaware football game. That means the Justice Department guidelines almost certainly would apply.
A lawyer for the Justice Department offered support for that notion, telling TPMmuckraker in an email:
One of the first things you are trained on as part of your orientation is that you never ever ever ever attempt to avoid traffic citations or legal penalties by showing your credentials to an officer or by telling an officer who you are. You are shown videos of people attempting it, you sign a statement stating that you will not misuse credentials or position, and you are told in no uncertain terms that not only is such behavior a violation of Department policy – a Department Christie was employed with as a United States Attorney – it is also a serious ethical violation as an attorney.
The lawyer called Christie’s rank-pulling “inexcusable, because it is so clearly a violation of the public trust and his obligations as an attorney.”
And a former federal prosecutor agreed, saying via email “we were told quite explicitly that flashing creds to get out of a ticket was a serious misuse of authority.”
The Christie campaign hasn’t responded to multiple attempts over at TPMDC to contact them about the incident. We’ll keep you posted if we get a response.