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Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as members of his administration, a man at the center of the investigation told ABC News.
The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey has interviewed former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who claims he was fired because he objected to Christie officials dismissing indictments against political allies of the governor. Barlyn confirmed the investigation to ABC News. It was first reported by the International Business Times.
“It is true,” Barlyn told ABC News, saying he was interviewed by federal authorities at hisPennsylvania home this week. “I also provided the investigators with names of people I thought could furnish firsthand information.”
Barlyn said he was not sure whether others have been questioned for the investigation.
Barlyn was dismissed from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office in September 2010 and later brought a whistleblower case against the Christie administration that currently is in the discovery phase. He has consistently said he was fired for objecting to the quashing of indictments against the county’s sheriff and two subordinates -- all political supporters of Christie’s.
The governor’s office previously has dismissed the accusations as being “conspiratorial nonsense.”
State officials have repeatedly denied Barlyn’s accusations and, in court filings, they said that the decision to dismiss the indictment was within the discretion of New Jersey’s top law-enforcement officials. They have argued Barlyn has no case and doesn’t even have the right to sue under state law.
The federal prosecutor's probe centers on why Christie’s then-attorney general, Paula Dow, dismissed the indictments.
Dow has rejected Barlyn's accusations, saying the indictment was flawed and Barlyn was fired for “legitimate business reasons,” according to NJ.com.
In a February 2014 interview, Barlyn outlined some of his grievances. He told ABC News' Jim Avila that all the evidence his former office obtained during its “two-year investigation was suddenly shipped back to [the state capital] Trenton. ... physically taken out of our office and taken to the attorney general's office.”
He called it “highly unusual,” adding, “The head of our special investigations unit who was heading the investigation was very abruptly taken off the case two weeks before the dismissal.”
Barlyn called the relationships between those being investigated and Christie “compelling,” adding “there’s simply photographic evidence” showing Christie “associating with these individuals.”
In the interview, Barlyn claimed he was fired for “political reasons.” He said the state attorney general gave him no explanation for his dismissal.
“I asked for one and was told that I wasn't entitled to an explanation,” Barlyn said. “I gave up my access to the building. I returned home again completely in the dark although I had a feeling of what precipitated the dismissal. My Internet connection to the office was cut off. And three weeks later I received a one-page faxed dismissal letter from the director of the Division of Criminal Justice. Again, no reason was given of why I was terminated after 18 years of being ... a state and county prosecutor with a pretty good rep.”
Barlyn added that he feels like he was “treated in a way that sent a message to my colleagues that if you complain, if you protest, if you see something wrong and speak out about it, you're going to punished. There's really no other explanation. I was afforded less due process than the criminals I prosecute for the most minor offenses. I wasn't allowed to give my side of the story. I wasn't allowed to justify what I did. I was simply hung out to dry in a very public fashion.”
Barlyn’s new meeting with investigators follows an April letter Barlyn wrote to New Jersey's U.S. attorney, Paul Fishman, telling him “we have no recourse left at the state level to expose this administration’s serious breach of the public trust.” Barlyn then asked Fishman to “open an investigation to explore any potential violations of the federal criminal code that may have occurred in connection with the Hunterdon matter,” adding he had “amassed a substantial body of documentation that corroborates the allegations of criminal wrongdoing by the state.”
In June, Fishman wrote to Barlyn asking him to be in touch with his office about the case, Barlyn said.
Fishman’s office will not comment on the case and Christie’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment, but the potential 2016 presidential candidate has long denied involvement in Barlyn’s termination.
Sources tell ABC News this new investigation is still in the early stages.
New Jersey’s U.S. attorney is also investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal that has jeopardized the governor’s political future. The Christie administration is also being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the Port Authority inspector general and a state legislative committee that is part of the Democratic-controlled New Jersey State Legislature.