Judge tosses citizen’s complaint against N.J. ex-transit chief

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A judge on Monday declined to allow a citizen’s criminal complaint to go forward against the convicted former head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a hearing that was punctuated by shouting matches between attorneys.

William Brennan, a retired firefighter running for governor this year as a Democrat, had brought the criminal misconduct complaint against former Port Authority chairman David Samson, who is serving a four-year probationary sentence for bribery.

Brennan said Samson’s admission of guilt — that he used his position to pressure United Airlines to reinstate a money-losing flight to an airport near his South Carolina vacation home — and his sentence that included no prison time stuck in his craw and motivated his complaint.

But Newark Municipal Judge Marvin Adames ruled Brennan didn’t have standing to bring the complaint, essentially because he didn’t witness the crime or wasn’t directly affected by it.

Brennan had argued that as a citizen of New Jersey, “any act of misconduct touches upon me.”

When Adames read his ruling after the occasionally tense, 2¢ -hour hearing, Brennan stalked out of the courtroom. Outside, he accused Adames of “changing the rules of court” by ignoring state law governing citizen complaints. He said he would refile the complaint “over and over” if necessary.

Angelo Genova, an attorney representing Samson, didn’t comment afterward. During the hearing, he urged Adames not to let the complaint “get past first base” and called the hearing “a prop for Mr. Brennan’s gubernatorial campaign.”

When Genova told Adames the publicity surrounding the complaint unfairly damaged Samson’s reputation, Brennan shouted, “His client is a goddamn criminal!” forcing the judge to admonish both men.

Samson, who is in his late 70s, is a former New Jersey attorney general and longtime mentor to Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed him to head the powerful Port Authority in 2011. Samson pleaded guilty last year and faced up to two years in prison under his plea agreement.

His probationary sentence handed down last month includes one year of home confinement.

Brennan focused his complaint on Samson’s admission that he removed an item on a new hangar project for United at Newark Liberty International Airport from a Port Authority board meeting agenda in 2012.

At the time, Samson was lobbying for the South Carolina flight, later dubbed “The Chairman’s Flight.” United discontinued the flight shortly after Samson resigned in 2014.

United was fined more than $2 million, and then-CEO Jeff Smisek and two other high-ranking United officials were forced out in September 2015.

Brennan previously filed a misconduct complaint against Christie over the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.

A state judge ruled there was probable cause to proceed, but prosecutors declined to pursue a case against Christie.

By Patricia Older

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