Federal prosecutors opening a six-week trial against two former aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asserted in opening statements Monday the governor was indeed aware of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in a scandal which has become known as “Bridgegate.”
Outlining their case against Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Bill Baroni, the former Port Authority deputy executive director, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna told the court Port Authority executive David Wildstein will attest he informed the governor of the lane closures and describe how the congestion was triggering complications in nearby Fort Lee, N.J.
Wildstein has pleaded guilty for his role in the scandal and implicated both Kelly and Baroni.
Both Kelly and Baroni have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges; Gov. Christie has not been charged or named as a co-conspirator in the case.
At issue is the Sept. 9-13, 2013, closures of two traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge connecting Fort Lee and New York City. Acting on an email from Kelly to Wildstein proposing to create a traffic bottleneck in Fort Lee, Wildstein ordered George Washington Bridge manager Robert Durando not to reveal the lane closures to authorities under the guise a study on traffic patterns was being conducted.
The traffic congestion is said to have contributed to a delay in emergency services response to Florence Genova, a 91-year-old Fort Lee resident who died of cardiac arrest following a 911 call.
Officials theorize the lane closures causing agonizing traffic was inspired by Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refusing to endorse Christie’s 2013 reelection bid.
If true, the allegations appear to contradict a nine-month Justice Department probe which judged no conclusive evidence was produced to determine Christie was or was not aware of the lance closures prior to the issue become known to the public.
Christie’s second term as New Jersey governor ends in January 2018.
[CNN] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Eduardo Munoz via Salon]