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Why Are Jersey Cops Changing Accident Story 7 Years after the Fact?

The latest news from Chris Christie’s crappy driving record is that the story he has told about a second traffic mishap is falling apart. He maintains he was heading to a local prosecutor’s swearing in ceremony.

Christie said he was heading to [Union County Prosecutor Theodore] Romankow’s swearing-in ceremony at the time of the accident, but could not remember where he was coming from. He said he also couldn’t recall how he got to the ceremony after the car was totaled.

But the cops are now saying–after having originally corroborated this story–that Christie was headed away from this swearing-in ceremony.

Elizabeth police today adjusted their account of the July 26, 2002 incident. Police Director James Cosgrove said Christie was on his way from — not on his way to — the swearing-in of Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow when the accident occurred around 5:30 p.m.

Now, it may be this is just real confusion. Or maybe the cops figured out the timing didn’t work out the way the story was originally told. Or maybe there was a reason–back in the day–to claim to be heading to rather than away from these things (do they serve cocktails after prosecutors get sworn in?).

But Christie’s stories do have a way of falling apart. 

Christie Sued for Accident with Motorcyclist

I wasn’t all that interested in the news that Chris Christie knocked over a motorcyclist when driving the wrong way up a one way street–I’m more interested in doing the math to figure out whether he used his position to get the later accidents pled down in a successful effort to keep his license.

But the news that the cyclist Christie hit sued is noteworthy. (h/t scribe)

The motorcyclist was riding down Clinton street ( the right way ) and when he saw Christie in the intersection, the bike fell on its side and slid into Christie’s car, according to the accident report filed by the officer on the scene.

Mendonca was injured and taken by ambulance to the hospital. Not nearby Trinitas, but UMDNJ in Newark which has a trauma center. 

[snip]

We asked Christie about the accident in Atlantic City Friday and he was very curt with his answers. NJN South Jersey Bureau Chief Kent St. John asked if there was a lawsuit. Christie said “no” then “nope.”

But actually there was. According to the Superior Court Record Center in Trenton, Mendonca filed suit in 2004. The complaint filed in Essex County was later dismissed, indicating ( according to the Clerk ) an out of court settlement.

Hey, I would sue, too if I were put in the trauma ward by some bozo driving the wrong way down a one way street. I would settle, too, if I were a politico hoping to run for Governor.

But I probably wouldn’t lie about it when asked. 

Confirmed: 7 People, One Kid’s Seat, 4-Door Car

Or at least that’s the story that Chris Christie has settled on to explain away his 2005 traffic stop.

Christie said that he had not identified himself as the U.S. attorney, but that a tow truck driver had recognized him. He was allowed to drive home to Mendham, about 44 miles away, because his four children were in the car, not because of his position, he said. [my emphasis]

But aside from apparently defying the laws of physics (not to mention laws pertaining to child restraints and seat belts), Christie’s story keeps getting muddier. There are the questions about whether Michele Brown was the one big-footing the US Attorney’s office with the traffic cops.

Christie also denied a report that Brown had gotten out of the car during the stop and flashed her badge.  

Add to that the fact that the police director who so helpfully explained, last week, that Christie was let go because his four kids were present has gotten all quiet.

For example, when I spoke to the prosecutor who handled the case for Lambertville he said he did not ever see the words “no deal” printed on the ticket. Well, it is clearly written there since the ticket was posted on politickernj. And normally cops write that when they have had an unpleasant encounter with a motorist.

I have also reached out the Lambertville Police Director. I was told he “wasn’t in” on Friday. And today I was told “he is no longer returning media calls.”

Maybe everyone else is beginning to recognize the rules of physics?

Well, the traffic stop is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty minor. But the Delayed Prosecution Agreements, whereby Christie funneled multi-million dollar contracts to one of the people the Bush Administration would like to keep wealthy and content, are not.

And on Christie’s DPAs too, his answers are not holding up. You’ll recall that Christie attended a rather contentious hearing on these issues in June, where he ultimately got up and walked out on Congress?  Well, now he’s trying to Cheney his way through Questions for the Record. As Congressman Steve Cohen writes in a letter asking for Christie to be more forthcoming regarding issues relating to the DPAs, 

So the manner in which you responded is particularly unsatisfactory. For all but two of the questions, you responded with a general assertion that the questions were answered in your oral and written testimony. At times Read more

Weight: —

picture-129.pngOkay, this may appear to be really catty, but I’m doing it to make a point, so bear with me.

How does a guy who is large enough such that the cops stopping him for multiple traffic violations didn’t write his weight on the ticket fit into what appears to be a sedan with his wife, his four kids (one of whom–now 5–would have been in a car seat in 2005) and one of the AUSAs who works for him? 

Because that appears to be the story Chris Christie is now telling about his traffic stop in 2005.

The reason the cops now give for letting Christie drive away in an uninsured, unregistered vehicle is that he had his kids with him.

[Lambertville Police Director Bruce] Coccuzza says, "He indentified himself."

Why was Christie allowed to drive away despite having no proof of insurance and no valid registration card? Coccuzza says, "He said he had insurance and he’s a person that produced federal I.D. credentials so you could probably assume that what he was saying was the truth……..is it consistent with the policy? No, but you do have special circumstances."

Coccuzza says the "special circumstances" were Christie’s children in the car not his job title. He says the fact that Christie was U.S. Attorney probably didn’t even register with officer at the scene, "From what I recollect I think she (the officer) even said at the time, ‘If wasn’t for the fact that you had a car full of children this car would be towed.’"

Of course, they would presumably have already seen the kids when they called the tow truck, but set that aside for the moment.

I’m more interested in how seven people (presumably including at least one car seat) fit in in a 4-door car.

Now there are several possible explanations. Perhaps only some of Christie’s kids were with him. Perhaps they left the then-one-year old and the then-four-year old at home with a sitter and brought the then-eleven and then-nine year old. Perhaps the car was an SUV–a five door car that fits seven apparently described as a four door. 

Read more

The Prosecutor with Whom Chris Christie Has an “Ongoing Financial Relationship” Resigns

Remember how Chris Christie told a bunch of Republicans that he still had a bunch of AUSAs in NJ? Remember how he had an "ongoing financial relationship" with one of them, Michele Brown, to the tune of $46,000?

Well, he’s "got" one fewer AUSAs now.

The federal prosecutor at the center of the controversy over a loan made by New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie has resigned.

In her resignation letter dated today, Michele Brown, the acting first assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said it has been an "honor and privilege" to serve, but she does not want to be "a distraction" for the office.

I wonder if she really resigned, or got resigned, when it became clear that it’s not cool for federal prosecutors to accept loans from their boss. Or maybe she didn’t want to be a distraction from Christie’s campaign?

Though I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this scandal.

Update: Nope, we haven’t. It appears that Brown was getting some bonuses.

The office has not disclosed Brown’s salary or raises, but Christie said she was at the top of the pay scale, so she got no salary bumps along with her recent promotions. She and others in the office did receive undisclosed bonuses, however.

Can someone explain how this is different from Margaret Chiara, who was fired because she allegedly gave bonuses to her favorite AUSA?

Christie’s AUSAs Still Won’t Respond to Corzine’s FOIA Requests

Jon Corzine’s campaign wants some more information about just what Chris Christie was doing at the US Attorney’s office while he was handing out multi-million dollar deals to his friends. 

So the Corzine campaign has submitted 18 FOIA requests for information on Christie’s tenure as US Attorney. They have submitted them, each time, to the Executive Office of US Attorneys, which keeps kicking the FOIAs down to the NJ US Attorney’s office, where they appear to be routinely ignored. So today, the Corzine took the next step in its attempts to figure out just what Christie was doing at the US Attorney office.

The campaign filed eight administrative challenges – representing 18 separate requests – with the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Information and Privacy. Despite repeated efforts by the campaign to obtain the information, beginning in March 2009, it has repeatedly been told that the failures to fulfill its requests lie with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. The records the campaign is seeking from Christie’s tenure as U.S. Attorney include: budgets, travel expenses and schedules – even public ones.

"The United States Attorney’s office has many fine, dedicated, professional lawyers," said Corzine ’09 campaign strategist, Tom Shea. "But, in light of recent reports that Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra is under investigation to determine if he has used the office to help further the Christie campaign, Second Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown has an ongoing financial relationship with Christie and Christie was communicating with Karl Rove about his run for governor from that office, we feel it is even more important we receive the information requested."

The campaign is also seeking details of no-bid contracts Christie awarded while U.S. Attorney, including a $52 million contract to his former boss, ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft. In addition it has demanded Mr. Christie’s communications with former Bush political advisor Karl Rove, and communications between Mr. Christie and current officials in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey since Mr. Christie resigned as U.S. Attorney.

I’m actually somewhat agnostic on this. Perhaps DOJ is not turning over the requested materials for the same reasons DOJ is protecting Dick Cheney’s PatFitz interview–because they’re trying to avoid any appearance of political taint by letting Republicans avoid any scrutiny after the fact. Or it could just be that the Read more

Chris Christie, Former US Attorney, Claims He’s Still “Got” Federal Prosecutors, Talked with Them about State Jobs

Chris Christie’s ongoing ties with his old friends at the US Attorney’s office just got much worse.

First we learned that Chris Christie gave a highly inappropriate loan to one of his Assistant US Attorneys, Michele Brown, when he was her boss. Given his seeming magical coordination of campaign events with high profile busts by his former office, that "ongoing financial relationship" is highly suspect. Then we learned that DOJ’s Office of Public Responsibility is already investigating whether acting US Attorney Ralph Marra made inappropriate politicized comments when he announced the politicos, rabbis, and kidney busts last month.

In other words, there’s already growing evidence that Chris Christie is mobilizing ongoing relationships with friends at the US Attorney’s office to help his campaign against Governor Corzine.

But that was before we learned that Christie was filmed on February 28 at the Breakfast Bagels with Baroni event in West Windsor, promising to give his former AUSAs jobs throughout state government, speaking of them as if they were still "his" AUSAs, and admitting that he had already had a conversation about this with them about those jobs.

You know, we’re going to ferret out waste and fraud and abuse in the government. I think you know I’ll do that better than anybody. I’ve got a group of assistant U.S. attorneys sitting down in Newark still doing their job. But let me tell you, they are watching the newspapers. And after we win this election, I’m going to take a whole group of them to Trenton with me and put them in every one of the departments because they saw a lot of waste and abuse being investigated while we were in the U.S. Attorney’s office that didn’t rise to the level of a crime. So I told them, the good news is, when we get to Trenton we don’t have to worry about beyond a reasonable doubt anymore.

So here’s a poll. Which of the following Christie statements do you find the most damning?

  1. I’ve got AUSAs in Newark
  2. I’m going to take a whole group of them to Trenton
  3. I told them I was going to take them to Trenton
  4. We’ve agreed to do away with “beyond a reasonable doubt” when we get there 

Enter your pick for most damning in the comments.

Chris “Nervous Wreck” Christie

The reporter that broke the story of Chris Christie’s unusual loan to his subordinate, Michele Brown, raises some interesting questions in a blog post, mostly about why the US Attorney’s office is at the same time refusing to comment, but also claiming that "everyone" knew of this unusual loan. (h/t mb)

There is also this lingering question about who in the office knew what and when. Christie says Ralph Marra, the Acting US Attorney knew about it, as did the “whole front office.” Well didn’t someone question the wisdom of this? I mean aren’t these people supposed to be the cleanest and most ethical people in NJ???? We have now determined that Christie was thinking about a run for Governor as early as 2006 when he spoke to Karl Rove on the phone. Christie also says the question came up so many times during his tenure that he once needed to issue a press release denying that he was planning to run.

A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office said they won’t have any further comment since they like to keep the office separate from the “political season.” Well, that seems like a wise idea…but then why does everyone in the front office know about this financial arrangement between the now Republican Gubernatorial Candidate and Michele Brown? If this loan was made purely as an act of friendship ( as Christie claims ) it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. And if all these people in the office knew about it, why wasn’t it properly disclosed?

Finally, Christie promoted Brown twice…once before the loan and once afterwards. We have heard some grumbling complaints about favorable treatment toward Brown in the office, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for anyone to go public.

Someone very close to Christie told me that last night that Christie was a “nervous wreck.” I wonder why. [my emphasis]

I will repeat a comment I’ve made in threads: Christie’s financial relationship with Michele Brown closely resembles the alleged relationship between Margaret Chiara (the US Attorney from Western Michigan) and her subordinate, Leslie Hagen. (The two were also accused of a lesbian relationship.) Chiara and Hagen both got fired (though Hagen has been rehired); Christie and Brown did not, and Brown has been promoted since and remains at the US Attorney’s office in spite of taking an inappropriate loan.

So what explains the disparate treatment?

More on Christie’s “Ongoing Financial Relationship” with Michele Brown

picture-123.thumbnail.pngThis will just be a hodgepodge of details to follow up on this story, the news that former NJ US Attorney and current GOP candidate for Governor, Chris Christie gave one of his top AUSAs a mortgage loan for $46,000.

Christie Has Made Other Loans

Check out the original NJN report (click on Christie Mortgage Loan) on this–around the 5:48 mark. When asked whether he has ever given a loan like this in the past, he admits (after making a crazy-stupid face) he has given out such loans, though never as a mortgage.

I’d be really curious who and what those loans were about. But looking through his disclosure forms, I don’t see any hint of them, unless they involved the Christie Family Charitable Foundation, which he had until he became US Attorney (but in which he said he had no management control).

Now he did say he and his wife had give money, so maybe that’s where this money came from. But don’t you think Mr. Transparency ought to tell us about all the funky loans he has given in the last little while?

Michele Brown Was in the Middle of the Zimmer DPA

Meanwhile, remember the ginormous sweetheart deal that Chris Christie got his former boss, John Ashcroft, into? Where Ashcroft and his buddies made up to $52 million monitoring a deferred prosecution agreement of a medical device firm? And remember how, contrary to Christie’s claim that no one ever complained about those exorbitant fees, Zimmer’s lawyers were going crazy when they discovered that not only was Ashcroft basically charging them unlimited amounts, but was also pressuring them on further legal issues that seemed rather overblown?

Well, the first person they addressed their "going crazy" emails to was Michele Brown (and all the subsequent emails were cc’ed to her).

Michele,

I believe you and Chris are in Warsaw already. I wanted to alert you to a potential issue with the Zimmer Monitor. On Friday evening, Zimmer received a proposed fee agreement from the Ashcroft Group. Zimmer was told the agreement needed to be in place by Tuesday morning.

I have to tell you I was shocked by the proposed fee agreement.

Brown responds on Tuesday morning (that is, when Ashcroft’s company was demanding a response) and says:

Rick–Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Read more

More on Christie’s Below-Market Loan Gift to a Prosecutor in His Office

Update: Here’s the document the IRS would use to weigh whether this would count as a below-market loan. I’m trying to figure out precisely where Brown’s loan will fall, but given the short term of the loan (10 years) it appears it would not count as a below-market loan. (h/t Duncan) 

NYT has a version of the Chris Christie loan story with some details that seem to confirm prostratedragon’s suggestion earlier: that the loan Christie gave to the Executive Assistant AUSA (and now First AUSA) in his office, Michele Brown, would probably count as a below-market loan (and therefore a gift) for someone in her financial position.

Mr. Christie said he received a second mortgage on Ms. Brown’s home, which was in her name only, and had been receiving regular payments ever since. County records show the loan was dated Oct. 22, 2007, and carried a 5.5 percent yearly interest rate, with monthly payments of $499.22 over 10 years. [my emphasis]

As prostratedragon pointed out, given the reported financial circumstances of Brown and her husband, there’s little possibility she could have gotten that rate from a bank.

I get a farthing under 5.5% p.a. using a standard 17B II. From the story, the loan sounds like a second mortgage which under the AUSA’s family circumstances especially, would be priced more like a subprime loan —higher.

By 2007 sometime, both seconds and subprimes dried up abruptly and haven’t really recovered since, making the effective interest rate on one a very large number.

Which would make this a gift. A gift that keeps on giving, you might say, particularly since both are now in a position where their potential mutual interest in influencing one another would make this a big ethics no-no. And keeps on giving because Christie hasn’t been declaring this source of income on his disclosure forms.

Mr. Christie did not list the loan on his June 21, 2008, personal financial disclosure form as a member of the federal executive branch, which requires the detailing of any assets (like loans or receivables) worth more than $1,000, and any sources of income of more than $100 a year. Ms. Comella confirmed that Mr. Christie’s final disclosure as a prosecutor also omitted the loan.

Nor did he include the loan on his candidate’s disclosure with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission in April 2009. One of its catchall categories of unearned income requires the detailing of “other income (including interest)” of more than $100 when the total in that category exceeds $1,000. Mr. Christie listed Pfizer and three government bonds as the sources of such income, but made no mention of the loan to Ms. Brown.

Golly. Read more