CNN Anchor Says Investigators Could Threaten Felony Murder Charge to Induce Testimony From Christie Aide

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield asserted on Thursday that the threat of a felony murder charge could be used to get information on the "bridgegate" surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

"And then there can also be the very serious possibility that a death resulted from the actions of someone, right?" Banfield said of the George Washington Bridge lane closures that Christie aides were reportedly connected to. "So if that's the case, an extraordinarily serious end of this could be felony murder, because it is a felony to do this kind of thing if it can be proven to shut down those lanes for no good reason."

The local EMS coordinator had stated that due to traffic from the lane closures, paramedics were delayed in reaching an unconscious 91 year-old woman and "had to meet the ambulance en-route to the hospital." The woman died at the hospital but no direct connection was made between the delay and her death.

Banfield admitted a felony murder charge in that case would be "really far-reaching" but added that investigators could "dangle" that charge to pry information from a "low-level aide."

"[T]hose are very strong words that you can dangle in front of someone who could be very scared and ultimately be persuaded to give up testimony to a higher level," she noted.

Just a few minutes later, though, CNN's Chris Cuomo appeared and threw more water on the notion of a felony murder charge:

"[T]he idea of criminal charges arising from this is more than remote. To make a link between the potential death of this older woman because of slow response time and an individual's actions is really remote. I just think it adds to the gravity of the political wrongdoing here."

(H/T Mediaite)

Below is a transcript of the segment:

CNN
NEWSROOM
1/9/14
10:43 a.m. EST

JAKE TAPPER: We got hold of a letter here from September 10th, 2013, from the EMS coordinator in Fort Lee to the Mayor. This was September 10th, right after these closures happened, which happened right in the middle of the closures and it mentions a number of hold-ups of EMS. None of the political implications of this were discussed, and it talks about a woman, it took seven minutes to get to her and she later was pronounced dead at Englewood Hospital. Obviously she was unconscious a the time, but could that be tied to her death?

BANFIELD: Look, this is where the intersection of politics and law comes. Because this is a politicized event no matter how you look at it. And jurisprudence is often spearheaded by those who are elected. So there may be untold numbers of people who want to get in on this, and get headlines on this, at the very least. And then there can also be the very serious possibility that a death resulted from the actions of someone, right? So if that's the case, an extraordinarily serious end of this could be felony murder, because it is a felony to do this kind of thing if it can be proven to shut down those lanes for no good reason. And then if a death results, that's a murder. Now that's really far-reaching.

However, Jake, and this is where it's critical, those are very strong words that you can dangle in front of someone who could be very scared and ultimately be persuaded to give up testimony to a higher level. These are only suggestions, there is no tie to the Governor at this point. But if, for instance, an investigator at the federal or state level wants to squeeze information out to try to a higher level like a governor, that's a really strong incentive for a low-level aide to say do not hang any kind of murder or manslaughter on me, I've got information.

(...)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Before we go, I just want to be really clear. When you bring up those words, "felony murder" or "negligent homicide" or "manslaughter," they're terrifying and they do scare people. And investigators can lie when they're investigating as well. It's legal to lie to someone you're interrogating to scare them into giving you information. So it's not out of the realm that investigators are looking at this and considering these questions.

TAPPER: So you're talking more about felony murder in terms of an investigation, not in terms of a charge.

(...)

CHRIS CUOMO: And just one quick thing, Jake, the idea of criminal charges arising from this is more than remote. To make a link between the potential death of this older woman because of slow response time and an individual's actions is really remote. I just think it adds to the gravity of the political wrongdoing here.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014