'Traffic problems' email leads bridge trial closing argument

NEWARK-The George Washington Bridge lane-closure trial was delayed Thursday by a wrong time stamp on text messages used as evidence, the judge said.

Kelly, a former Christie aide, and Baroni, an ex-Port Authority executive, are facing nine counts in connection with the scheme that caused four days of gridlock in September 2013.

Six weeks of testimony in the Bridgegate trial ended Wednesday with Bridget Kelly, one of the two defendants, answering "Yes" when her lawyer asked if she was innocent.

The former official, David Wildstein, testified Baroni and Kelly knew the goal was to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

US prosecutors in Newark had been scheduled to begin summing up the evidence against two former allies of Governor Chris Christie who are accused of orchestrating lane closures at the busy George Washington Bridge to New York City in September 2013 in an act of political retribution.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff and a defendant in the trial, believed the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic study that would eventually improve traffic flow. "Now, I don't know what I'm defending", said Michael Critchley, an attorney for Kelly.

Wigenton's decision to exclude the endorsement language from charges frustrated defense attorneys, who over the last six weeks of the trial have attempted to show that Kelly and Baroni were manipulated by Wildstein and caught in a cover-up that reached the highest levels of the governor's office.

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Wildstein was "the glue" to the conspiracy, Cortes said Friday, and didn't act alone. "And they chose to punish him by choking Fort Lee streets".

A defense lawyer tells jurors a former top appointee of Republican Gov. Chris Christie should be acquitted because the government's main witness can't be believed.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, and are expected to last into Friday.

"I knew the cover-up was a cover-up when I was listening to it", Weinberg said.

Kelly testified Christie signed off on the study and that they discussed it several times after their initial conversation.

Kelly and Baroni were charged in a nine-count indictment with conspiracy against civil rights, deprivation of civil rights, wire fraud, conspiring to "intentionally misapply property of an organization receiving federal benefits" and related charges in connection with a scheme of political retaliation targeting the mayor of Fort Lee over his refusal to endorse the governor for re-election. Similarly, Kelly's defense focused in large part on the governor being aware of a traffic study in Fort Lee prior to, and during, the traffic jams.

  • Sonia Alvarado