US & Canada

NJ Governor Chris Christie hit with criminal summons over bridge closure

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answers a question at the Statehouse in New Jersey. Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Christie denies knowing about the political revenge plot

A judge has signed a criminal summons accusing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of misconduct for his alleged role in the 2013 closure of a bridge.

The case will move to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office to determine whether an indictment will follow.

The news comes as two former Christie aides are on trial for allegedly closing part of the bridge after a mayor refused to endorse the governor.

The Republican governor has repeatedly denied knowing about the lane closures.

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Bridget Kelly, Mr Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive, are facing conspiracy and fraud charges for allegedly closing part of the George Washington Bridge, a major bridge connecting New Jersey to New York City.

Federal prosecutors say the move was political retribution to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing the governor in his re-election bid.

Revelations about "Bridgegate" have dogged Mr Christie, who endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a surprising move after dropping out of the primary race earlier this year.

Mr Christie has become a prominent supporter of his former rival, Mr Trump, and manages the New York businessman's transition team should he win the White House.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prosecutors allege that Chris Christie knew his staff was using the George Washington Bridge as a tool for political payback

David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official who pleaded guilty last year, testified late last month that Mr Christie was told about the bridge closure at a 9/11 memorial service two days after the lanes were blocked and laughed about the revenge plot.

Activist Bill Brennan filed the official misconduct complaint against Mr Christie in September after Mr Wildstein's testimony.

The prosecutor's office will decide whether there is enough evidence to indict Mr Christie for official misconduct, which could lead to a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

Mr Christie appointed the prosecutor who will review the case.

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office had "no comment at this time", spokeswoman Maureen Parenta said in an email to Reuters news agency.

Christie spokesman Brian Murray said the ruling would be appealed and reiterated the governor had no knowledge of the plot.

"This is a dishonourable complaint filed by a known serial complainant and political activist with a history of abusing the judicial system," he said.

"This matter has already been thoroughly investigated by three separate independent investigations."