01:25 - Source: CNN
Former Christie ally pleads guilty in Bridgegate charges (2015)

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A judge ruled Tuesday the names of the "unindicted co-conspirators" involved in the Bridgegate scandal can be released

In the original probe, investigators said they found that there were a number of co-conspirators but were not charged

New York CNN —  

A federal judge in New Jersey ruled Tuesday that the names of the “unindicted co-conspirators” involved in the Bridgegate scandal can be released.

Judge Susan D. Wigenton sided with media groups, granting their request for the list of names to be made public, potentially exposing government officials who were linked to the investigation but never charged.

A lengthy investigation by authorities into whether people close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie closed lanes to create traffic at the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 as an act of political retribution yielded charges against his deputy chief of staff and the Port Authority deputy director, as well as a guilty plea on a conspiracy charge from a Christie ally last year.

As the scandal swirled around these individuals, investigators found that there were a number of co-conspirators but were not charged, Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey said at the time.

He did not name the co-conspirators or elaborate on why they were not charged, but said that they could be identified at a later date.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The judge Tuesday paved the way for that step to be taken.

“There is very little that is private about the lane closures or the lives of the people allegedly connected to them,” Wigenton wrote in her decision, adding that the individuals so far have been “public employees and/or elected and appointed officials.”

“We think the time for the lack of transparency is over,” Bruce Rosen, lawyer for the media groups that filed the lawsuit, told CNN.

Christie’s spokesman did not respond to emails Tuesday. On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey said it would comply with the order to release the names by noon on Friday.

Fishman said in 2015 that Christie would not be criminally charged in the events. But with the looming trial of two former allies, Christie hasn’t been able to distance himself from the scandal, even during his run for Republican presidential nominee.

Christie has repeatedly said of the lane closures that he had “no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.”

Tuesday’s decision cited a ruling from a criminal case that Christie brought as U.S. Attorney in the early 2000s, before making his way to the governor’s office.

That case was against Charles Kushner, a real estate developer and gubernatorial fundraiser, who later became Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law.

In 2004, Kushner pleaded guilty to one charge of witness retaliation in addition to campaign finance and tax charges, after prosecutors accused him of hiring a prostitute to have sex with his brother-in-law, videotape it and send a copy to his sister.

His brother-in-law, at the time, was a cooperating witness in a grand jury investigation into whether Kushner violated campaign contribution laws and committed tax fraud.

The ruling in the Kushner case stated that a public official “cannot claim a right of privacy with respect to the manner in which they perform their duties. Where a criminal trial allegedly involves violations of the public trust by government officials, the public’s need to monitor closely the judicial proceedings is perforce increased,” according to Judge Wigenton’s decision Tuesday.

Last August, Donald Trump attended a fundraiser event at the home of Charles Kushner. The attendees paid $10,000 for a group called Make America Great Again.

Trump “attended as a guest and did not solicit donations from any of the attendees,” campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said at the time. “He is self-funding the campaign.”

In February, Christie announced that he would be endorsing Trump. Many have speculated that he could become a member of Trump’s cabinet, including positions like attorney general or secretary of Homeland Security.

On Monday, Trump announced that Christie would head his transition team.

“Gov. Christie is an extremely knowledgeable and loyal person with the tools and resources to put together an unparalleled transition team, one that will be prepared to take over the White House when we win in November,” Trump said in a statement.