Prosecutors sent tremors through rural Hunterdon County when they announced a sweeping indictment of the local Republican sheriff and her two deputies in 2010.It's worth reading the entire article in full — although it acknowledges that no evidence links Christie directly to what happened, it highlights some details that may seem more interesting today than they did when the article was first published. For example, Christie's Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno had a relationship with Trout and had thanked her for supplying deputies to help out the Christie campaign. And Christie later appointed the attorney general who quashed the case to a $215,000 per year job at — where else? — the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The 43-count grand jury indictment read like a primer in small-town abuse of power. It accused Sheriff Deborah Trout of hiring deputies without conducting proper background checks, and making employees sign loyalty oaths. Her deputies, the indictment charged, threatened one of their critics and manufactured fake police badges for a prominent donor to Gov. Chris Christie.
When the charges became public, the indicted undersheriff, Michael Russo, shrugged it off. Governor Christie, he assured an aide, would “have this whole thing thrown out,” according to The Hunterdon County Democrat. That sounded like bluster. Then the state killed the case.
At this point, this story is just yet another cloud of smoke around the Christie administration. But the central allegation is so serious that The Star-Ledger makes a pretty good case for why it warrants further official investigation:
Dow took over the Hunterdon County prosecutor’s office on the very day the indictment against this sheriff was unsealed. She put an end to the case and within months, Barlyn and other respected prosecutors were dismissed. If it’s true she did this on Christie’s behalf, it’s a matter of grave public interest — similar to the actions of his allies in Bridgegate.It's hard to argue with that.
Yet if we leave this case to be sorted out in civil court, the administration will drag it out indefinitely. What we need is a state legislative committee, the U.S. Attorney’s Office or a specially appointed prosecutor to get involved and issue subpoenas. Dow must be compelled to answer questions under oath, and the grand jury transcripts and other investigative materials must be turned over immediately.
Like the allegations in Bridgegate and Hoboken, this is too important to leave to one man’s private lawsuit.