A county prosecutor who says he was abruptly fired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s staff for investigating Christie allies says the Bridgegate scandal looks a lot like the case he tried to bring to court. Bennett Barlyn spoke with the Daily Mail and said his ouster from the prosecutor’s office was “mafia-esque.”
Barlyn served as prosecutor in Hunterdon County for 18 years until he attempted to prosecute Deborah Trout, a county sheriff with ties to Christie. The Mail lists the accusations as “hiring staff without vetting them, supplying a Christie donor with a false law enforcement ID and forcing underlings to sign loyalty oaths.”
She and many in her office were indicted through Barlyn’s office until Barlyn was “fired without explanation and other people were intimidated in the office to remain silent… it was mafia-esque,” Barlyn recounted.
The firing occurred on the day the indictments were unsealed. He says he was told that he “was not entitled to an explanation.” Early on in the case, one indicted member of Trout’s staff is alleged to have said that “Christie will ‘have this whole thing thrown out.'” When it was thrown out, members of the Grand Jury anonymously told the Star-Ledger that the case was “persuasive” and they were “angry” that it was being ignored.
Barlyn first went public with his case in October, when it appeared in The New York Times and Barlyn first sued the state for wrongful termination. The Times notes that, not only were those working in Barlyn’s office abruptly fired, but the indictments were dismissed and the evidence moved to Trenton into the hands of the state Attorney General.
Back then, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak called Barlyn’s case “truly… some of the most wild-eyed conspiracy theories I’ve heard in a long time.” Drewniak is now famous for his profane and dismissive takes on the New Jersey press in emails released by the New Jersey Legislature last week regarding the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge.
Just as Drewniak’s reputation has taken a hit in the wake of the bridge scandal, so too Barlyn hopes that these accusations expose a pattern of corruption now made clearer by more evidence. “It’s the governor’s office again using a state agency in an improper way for political purposes,” Barlyn tells the Daily Mail from Pennsylvania, where he now lives and works as a schoolteacher.
The case is set to roll on, with Barlyn waiting on the court’s decision to release transcripts from the Grand Jury testimony in the original case. Since this evidence is what caused the Grand Jury to indict Trout and others in the first place, Barlyn hopes that exposing it will prove that he was not behaving improperly in pursuing the case. “That’s the smoking gun,” he tells the Mail.
The case was delayed in October, much to Barlyn’s dismay, but with the national spotlight on Christie precisely for a corruption scandal, new documents that might prove yet more impropriety could magnify the impact of these documents on the national political coverage of Christie’s tenure.