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Archive for the ‘Christie Traffic Stop’ Category

For the most part, my broadcast stories going forward are going to be all rainbows and ponies. It will be straight news about what the candidates are doing each day up until the election. Stories with lots of natural sound so we can hear and see what’s happening out there.

There, have I made a compelling case for a what a principled reporter I am? Good. Now allow me to undermine it slightly.

I have to come back to this issue, because it keeps cropping up. It’s the now infamous Corzine ad about Christie that says he “threw his weight around.” Was this a veiled reference to Christie’s weight? The conventional wisdom is that it was. Even Corzine has now admitted it was a poor choice of words. But, very few people have looked at what the ad is actually suggesting…which is that Christie walked away from a traffic accident involving a motorcyclist without getting a ticket after identifying himself as US Attorney. Here is what Christie said about it on Fox News on Tuesday.

Let’s be clear. According to the accident report ( and I’m just rehashing what I’ve written before ) Christie turned the wrong way down a one-way street. Motorcyclist Andre Mendonca turned his bike on its side and slid into Christie’s vehicle. But it was Christie who crept forward through a red light.

I know the weight thing has garnered some sympathy for Christie. And I know he was asked about it by the anchor on Fox ( who clearly has not been following the race very closely ) but it might be time for both candidates to move beyond that ad. Because it doesn’t paint either one of them in a  flattering light. In fact, it sorta exemplifies what everyone is griping about when they talk about the “negative tone” of New Jersey’s 2009 gubernatorial contest.

Alright, puppies and ice cream. Here I come.

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According to Chris Christie, after getting into the collision with motorcyclist Andre Mendonca in 2002 the two men had no subsequent contact.

But court records show that mendonca filed suit two years later. We asked Christie on Monday why he had denied the existence of the suit, and Christie said he was never served.

In fairness the suit was dismissed two months later. And a quick check with the Essex County Sheriff’s office has no record of papers being served in the civil suit.

However, some new details have emerged. Apparently Christie was not on his way TO the swearing in ceremony of Union County Prosecutor Ted Romankow. According to the Elizabeth Police Director he was on his way FROM that ceremony. And a police officer did drive Christie to his attorney’s office in Cranford after the incident. When asked about that detail Christie said he didn’t remember. He added that the incident was “seven years ago.”

Christie added that he didn’t leave the scene until after he helped Mendonca into the ambulance. A detail that he did seem to recall seven years after the fact.

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On July 26, 2002 Christie was driving a leased BMW in the city of Elizabeth.

He was on his way to a swearing in ceremony for the Union County Prosecutor. But Christie apparently got a little lost. When he got to the intersection of Murray street and Clinton, he edged out and made a partial right turn the wrong way on a one way street.

Enter Andre Mendonca. 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. Reached by telephone this morning, Mendonca said he had no idea his collision was with the man who is now the Republican candidate for Governor. When I started to ask him questions about the accident, he said he “shouldn’t be talking about it.” Mendonca did say that Christie seemed very concerned for his well being and blamed bad signage at the intersection for what happened. Then he hung up on me.

Christie identified himself as the US Attorney to the officer who did not issue Christie a ticket. One Elizabeth official said that the officer then drove Christie to the swearing in ceremony.

News of this accident comes on the heels of an earlier story about Christie being pulled over for speeding in Lambertville ( see earlier posts ).

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.

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What is the number one rule in political campaigns???

The answer: Don’t give a story legs.

In reality, I suppose the actual number one rule is ‘don’t campaign for your opponent,’ but you get the idea.

For years Christie was immune from public criticism. As the US Attorney he really didn’t have to wade into the morass of local politics. And for the most part, he got a free ride from the press. Sure, some issues came up…but the “story” was always his success rate in high profile prosecutions of public officials.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, that changed. Not only is he campaigning for Governor, but for the first time reporters had questions on issues that had not been fully explained. It began with the disclosure of the $46,000 loan to Michele Brown which struck many as peculiar if not inappropriate.

last week, a second story emerged that the Christie camp did not like. I’ll spare you details since I outlined them in an earlier post but the long and short of it is this: Christie gets pulled over in 2005 near Lambertville for speeding. There is no proper insurance identification in the car, nor is the vehicle properly registered. With him in the car were the Christie family and Michele Brown.

But here is where the details get a little murky. It has been reported that Christie was identified as the US Attorney during the stop. Although he claims not by him. One report said that Brown flashed a badge and explained to the officer who they were. But Christie said Saturday that the tow-truck operator “recognized” him.

Christie’s remarks over the weekend ( when the already diminished State House press corps is even smaller ) were the first he has made in person to reporters since the story broke last Wednesday.

Naturally, that has led to speculation about why some of the details seem elusive. Today, Christie again took questions and essentially blamed his wife for the lapses in documentation since it was her car.

Look, as I said earlier…there might not be anything to this story. But there are a couple of inconsistencies. 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.”

Now does that settle it, or does that merely make this more intriguing?

Again I go back to that rule. Christie’s absences on the trail since these stories trickled out only fuel speculation in the press that lingering questions were being avoided or not properly addressed. And when the Police Director suddenly clams up, it makes us wonder what is being hidden.

Not to say that anything is…but it just keeps seemingly innocuous stories alive.

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