By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday postponed a deadline for prosecutors in New Jersey to reveal a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the so-called "Bridgegate" criminal case involving allies of Governor Chris Christie.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a last-minute emergency request from one of the people on the list, less than two hours before U.S. prosecutors were set to file the names in federal court in New Jersey.
The document could make clear how many Christie associates were aware of an alleged scheme to close down lanes at the George Washington Bridge in what prosecutors claim was an act of political retribution against a local mayor.
Christie, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for his party's presidential nomination this year, has denied knowledge of the plot.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton had ordered the list made public at the request of several media companies.
But one of the alleged co-conspirators anonymously filed an emergency appeal, arguing his reputation will be irreparably besmirched.
In a brief order, the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia scheduled a hearing for June 6. The court is also considering whether that hearing should be closed to the public, presumably to preserve the individual's anonymity.
The unindicted co-conspirators are those who prosecutors believe joined in the plot but have not been criminally charged.
Bruce Rosen, a lawyer for the media companies, said in an email, "We're looking forward to making our case before the full 3rd Circuit panel that the public has a First Amendment right to see the list of unindicted co-conspirators."
Thus far, three people have been charged. William Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, are scheduled to face trial in September.
David Wildstein, also a former official at the Port Authority, the agency that oversees major transportation facilities in the New York City area, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating.
Prosecutors say they orchestrated the September 2013 lane closure in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as payback against the Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse Christie's re-election bid. The ensuing traffic wreaked havoc in town, causing massive delays and impeding emergency responders.
The case has proven embarrassing for Christie, who is heading presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's transition team. The trial will unfold in the heat of the presidential campaign ahead of Election Day, Nov. 8.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Dan Grebler)