TRENTON David Samson, who in March resigned as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will not produce additional documents in response to a legislative committee's subpoena as it investigates the George Washington Bridge lane closures, his lawyer said Friday.
Samson's lawyers sent a letter to a lawyer for the legislative panel, calling the January subpoena overly broad and criticizing committee members' public discussion of past documents.
"Unfortunately, the way this Committee has conducted itself, combined with Mr. Samson's constitutional rights to fundamental fairness, now compel him to decline to produce the documents requested by the Committee's subpoena for a number of reasons," the letter reads. It then cites the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution, and Samson's right to confidentiality, including attorney-client privilege.
Samson is a partner in the high-powered Wolff & Samson law firm; his "e-mails include communications that are unrelated to the subpoena and/or are protected" by attorney-client privilege, the letter reads.
His lawyers criticized committee members for discussing previously handed-over documents with the press, "suggesting that some members of the Committee had prejudged the matter or exhibited evident bias."
Their concerns are compounded, they wrote in the letter, by reports that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey has subpoenaed the committee in order to obtain copies of the documents the panel receives.
In invoking Samson's Fifth Amendment rights, his lawyers wrote, they were not tacitly admitting guilt. Instead, they said, they sought to avoid a situation where handing over documents could be misconstrued as evidence of Samson's involvement in the Fort Lee lane closures.
"To be clear, Mr. Samson has done nothing wrong and has violated no laws - quite the opposite - but as the Supreme Court has emphasized, one of the Fifth Amendment's 'basic functions' . . . is to protect innocent men . . . who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances," they wrote.
"In this situation, the statements and behavior of certain Committee members thus far, as well as the fact that numerous law enforcement agencies are conducting investigations, present a classic case of a situation in which an innocent man might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances," they wrote.
The leaders of the legislative committee, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) and Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D., Middlesex), released a short statement Friday after receiving the letter:
"The best way to get to the root of this abuse of government power is full cooperation by everyone, so we are disappointed in Mr. Samson's decision," they wrote. "We will obviously continue forward with this bipartisan inquiry until the people of New Jersey get the answers they deserve."