A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office says that allegations that a plea bargain that prevented a developer from collecting whistleblower payments was related to a connection between then-U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie and an attorney for another defendant is "absurd."
"The U.S. Attorney's Office stands by the prosecution and the plea agreement. All the facts are before the court as we await sentencing," Michael Drewniak told PolitickerNJ.com.
Drewniak also said he was disappointed that veteran reporters took the lawsuit "at face value" and impugned the integrity of Justice Department employees.
The Star-Ledger reported on Wednesday that Samuel Yarosh has filed a lawsuit claiming that federal prosecutors allowed his onetime business partner, former Assemblyman Morton Salkind (D-Marlboro), to plead guilty to a single count of tax evasion, ignoring evidence of additional fraud. Salkind was represented by a law firm headed by Herbert Stern and John Inglesino, both political allies of Christie, the Republican candidate for governor.
"As a factual matter, Christopher Christie, the former U.S. Attorney, did not personally sign any documents associated with that prosecution," said Drewniak, noting that the federal prosecutor's office handles 900 to 1,000 criminal cases annually and thousands of civil cases. "It iscommon practice under the current Acting U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Attorneys precedinghim to delegate theduty of authorizing and signing charging documents and plea agreementsafter they have been exhaustively reviewed by experiencedsupervisors."
Drewniak says that Christie "had no role whatsoever in the decisions leading to the plea agreement and resolution of the case" and that "no defense attorneys involved in the matter sought or received any review of the case above the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecutedthe case exclusively."
"The allegationsin the lawsuit are absurd on their face, and it says plenty that the first time this plaintiff cobbled together a RICO lawsuit, it was thrown out of court. He merely repackaged it into a150-pagenovel full ofallegations that are, at a minimum, the productof a disgruntled, litigious plaintiff who is suing the IRS commissioner for a big payday," Drewniak said. "It is disappointing that someexperienced reporters took this lawsuit at face value and that others would use it, ultimately,to impugn the integrity of hardworking line assistantsand their experienced supervisors."
The reporter who wrote the story for the Star-Ledger was John Martin, who covered the federal prosecutor's office during most of Christie's seven years as U.S. Attorney.
Gov. Jon Corzine's campaign released a web ad on Thursday criticizing Christie's handling of the Salkind case, and State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, said that Christie gave Salkind a "sweetheart deal" because of his relationship with Stern and Inglesino.