Bennett Barlyn was a prosecutor in rural Hunterdon County in May of 2010 when a 43-count grand jury indictment of three Chris Christie allies was unsealed. That same day, the state attorney general, who is appointed by the governor, took over the corruption case.
Barlyn said when he complained about it, the AG’s office came after him.
"The Attorney General’s office sent down a cadre of investigators to basically conduct an investigation into my background, my work habits," the former prosecutor-turned school teacher told members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Trenton on Monday.
"They scanned my computer. Basically, they were digging up dirt to use against me."
Then Attorney General Paula Dow — an appointee of Gov. Chris Christie — successfully shutdown the case, and Barlyn was ultimately fired.
"If my allegations are correct, the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer in New Jersey, has engaged in an act of official misconduct," Barlyn told the legislature Monday during a Judiciary Committee hearing.
Barlyn later sued the state, saying his firing was retaliation. And last year the two sides settled for $1.5 million. Taxpayers so far have paid at least $5 million; Gibbons PC, a law firm handling the case for the Christie administration, has been paid $3 million.
As part of the settlement, Barlyn agreed to keep many of the documents he had privy to as part of the discovery in his case secret. But Assemblyman John McKeon says those documents are a possible treasure trove of information that makes "Bridgegate look like child’s play." He says they should be public, especially since the taxpayers have spent millions on the case.
"Just because those documents, which belong to the public, are privileged as it relates to this litigation, doesn’t mean this legislature shouldn’t be entitled to them," JcKeon said. "I wanna know. We should all wanna know."
McKeon says he's talking to legislative leaders about how to proceed.
Neither Christie’s office nor the Attorney General’s office would comment. In 2012, Christie nominated Paula Dow to become a Superior Court judge.