A former assistant prosecutor for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office is renewing attempts to obtain grand jury records in a case he says has links to Gov. Chris Christie.
Ben Barlyn claims he was fired after complaining that indictments against Sheriff Deborah Trout, Undersheriff Michael Russo, and investigator John Falat, Jr. were dismissed “for political reasons.”
Barlyn had previously been granted access to the grand jury records but the Appellate Division of the Superior Court reversed the lower court’s decision after the state appealed. However, the appellate judges did not prohibit Barlyn from refiling his request if he came up with additional information to show that he had a particularized need for the requested information.
According to a brief filed by his attorney, John Lytle on Feb. 17, the reasons cited by the appellate judges for keeping the grand jury records no longer apply. The brief also provides evidence that there are strong ties between Trout, Russo and Falat and Gov. Christie supporting Barlyn’s claim that the dismissal of the indictments was politically motivated.
Barlyn was recently interviewed by the FBI in relation to those alleged connections to the Christie administration.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 21, a federal suit filed by Trout, Russo and Falat was dismissed. Other claims were sent back to the state Superior Court. Those claims are: malicious prosecution, hostile work environment, retaliation and violations of the state law against discrimination.
A motion to dismiss that suit is pending.
The original 57-page suit claims that before and after Trout took office in January 2008, she was subjected to “retaliation and harassment” because she and Russo had both sued the county in the past — she in 1998 and Russo in 1995. Her 1998 suit, filed with three other Hunterdon County sheriff’s officers, won damages of $650,000.
Trout’s attorney, William Courtney filed the suit in Hudson County Superior Court on Aug. 2, 2012. Lawsuits may be filed where at least one plaintiff lives. Falat lives in Hudson County.
Barlyn said the dismissal of Trout’s suit supports his argument that the trio was properly indicted and therefore he was improperly fired.
Originally Posted @ http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2015/02/ex-prosecutor_renews_quest_for_grand_jury_transcri.html