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Chris Christie Administration Facing Criminal Investigation

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A former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor, Bennett Barlyn, claims he was fired by the administration of New Jersey Gov Chris Christie for objecting to the dismissal of indictments against certain Christie allies.

Bennett A. Barlyn says the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office was working an ironclad criminal case on a local sheriff and two of her deputies in 2010 when the state Attorney General’s Office swooped in, quashed the indictment, fired him for voicing objections, and threatened another prosecutor to keep quiet.

The sheriff, Deborah Trout, is an acquaintance of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and pitched in on Christie’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009, court records show. The indictment charged that Trout hired deputies without conducting background checks — a potential criminal offense in New Jersey.

The Christie administration  has previously dismissed the charges as “conspiratorial nonsense.” Now, Barlyn confirmed the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation to various media outlets.

“It is true,” Barlyn told ABC News, saying he was interviewed by federal authorities at his Pennsylvania home this week. “I also provided the investigators with names of people I thought could furnish firsthand information.”

Barlyn was dismissed from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office in September 2010 and later brought a whistleblower case against the Christie administration that currently is in the discovery phase. He has consistently said he was fired for objecting to the quashing of indictments against the county’s sheriff and two subordinates — all political supporters of Christie’s.

Barlyn was fired by then-Christie attorney general, Paula Dow. According to NJ.com, “Dow has rejected Barlyn’s accusations, saying the indictment was flawed and Barlyn was fired for ‘legitimate business reasons.'”

Bennett A. Barlyn says the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office was working an ironclad criminal case on a local sheriff and two of her deputies in 2010 when the state Attorney General’s Office swooped in, quashed the indictment, fired him for voicing objections, and threatened another prosecutor to keep quiet.

The sheriff, Deborah Trout, is an acquaintance of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and pitched in on Christie’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009, court records show. The indictment charged that Trout hired deputies without conducting background checks — a potential criminal offense in New Jersey.

Among other allegations, it charged that Trout’s office also gave a fake police ID to a pharmaceutical executive who donated thousands of dollars to Christie’s campaign.

“The case simply died on the vine,” said Barlyn, now a teacher in Pennsylvania after 16 years as a New Jersey prosecutor.

Barlyn is suing for wrongful termination and for the release of confidential records, claiming they will support his case. The case is likely to play out for some time and it’s unclear if there are any broader political motivations, given that the NJ Gov is considered to be a potential Republican candidate for his party’s presidential nomination.

Administration officials, including Paula Dow, who was attorney general at the time, have denied the charges, saying that the indictment was flawed and they dismissed Barlyn for “legitimate business reasons.”

On Tuesday, Barlyn’s attorney argued before a three-judge panel that there is an easy way to find out who is telling the truth: Release the confidential records from the grand jury that indicted Trout.

But such records occasionally are admitted as evidence in court, and in August, a trial judge granted Barlyn’s request to unseal the grand jury documents.

On appeal Tuesday, Greenfogel said that judge “did not take into consideration the chilling effect it would have on the entire grand jury process … on the witnesses, the targets.”

Barlyn “utterly failed” to show why his case trumped the public interest in keeping the records secret, she added.


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