Among the 26 pardons issued by Gov. Chris Christie late Friday evening was a contributor to his 2009 campaign for Governor and to his 2016 presidential campaign.
John Pjeternikaj was convicted in 1982 on charges of unlawful sale of a weapon. He was one of fifteen arrested after a 10-month undercover investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office that netted a cache of firearms, explosives and two silencers.
He gave $4,300 to Christie’s 2009 gubernatorial bid, and another $1,000 to is inaugural committee, according to reports field with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Other members of his household also appear to have been Christie contributors.
A resident of Saddle River, Pjeternikaj contributed $1,350 to Chris Christie for President in 2015; his wife gave the same amount. Pjeternikai also donated $5,000 to the New Jersey Republican State Committee in 2014, and $2,500 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Pjeternikaj contributed $1,000 to Paterson Mayor Joey Torres’ 2014 campaign, and $700 to State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio’s 2017 re-election campaign.
Christie also pardoned Brian Aitken, who gained national attention in 2009 when he was convicted for possessing handguns in New Jersey that he had purchased legally in another state. Aitken had served four months in prison before Christie commuted his sentence to time served in 2010. The National Rifle Association praised Christie for the commutation, helping secure his image as a rising star in national politics. As a presidential candidate, Christie touted his commutation of Aitken’s sentence in his pitch to gun owners.
Pjeternikaj is the second known pardon of a campaign contributor by Christie on December 22, the Friday before Christmas, Christie issued an evening pardon to another donor with whom he appeared to have a personal relationship.
Christie leaves office on Tuesday.