By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey judge on Friday declined to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate a citizen's criminal complaint against Governor Chris Christie over the "Bridgegate" lane-closure scandal, saying private citizens do not have the legal standing to make such a request.
The ruling from Judge Bonnie Mizdol, the top judge in Bergen County, New Jersey, ensures that the county prosecutor's office will maintain jurisdiction over the complaint filed by Bill Brennan, a retired firefighter and activist known for filing numerous lawsuits against state officials.
The official misconduct complaint accuses Christie of knowing about a plot to close down lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 as an act of political payback to punish a local mayor for refusing to endorse his reelection bid.
Two former Christie allies were convicted last month of federal charges at trial for orchestrating the plan with a third Christie associate, who pleaded guilty and appeared as a key government witness.
The governor has denied any involvement or wrongdoing and has not been charged in the case, but U.S. prosecutors presented evidence at the trial that Christie was at least aware of the lane closures at the time they occurred.
The scandal's fallout helped scuttle Christie's bid for the Republican presidential nomination and has cratered his approval ratings. Christie, an early supporter of President-elect Donald Trump, was once seen as a potential cabinet appointee before the conviction of his former associates generated a new round of negative attention.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Tom Brown)