Bridget Anne Kelly, Bill Baroni- Amy Newman & Kevin R. Wexler photos
Two former top aides to Governor Christie knew they were engaged in wrongdoing when they closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival because they lied about it, federal prosecutors said in court papers filed Friday night.
Abbott Koloff reports in The Record today:
Former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff to the governor, created a massive traffic jam to punish Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich and engaged in “lies and deceit” by creating a cover story that the lane reductions were part of a traffic study, the prosecutors said.
The filing by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and his office was in response to the defendants’ motion to dismiss federal charges against them, which include the alleged misuse of Port Authority resources.
The defendants argued that the charges should be thrown out because, among other things, they are based on vague federal laws that have been twisted to fit the facts of the case. They also said that they did not have “fair warning” that a federal statute applied to their actions, according to court papers.
Baroni and Kelly were indicted on multiple counts related to the lane closures last year while another former top Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty to his part in the alleged scheme. Authorities say they orchestrated the closure of two of three access lanes to the bridge for four days beginning on Sept. 9, 2013 with the intention of punishing Sokolich for not endorsing Christie’s bid for reelection as governor.
Christie has not been implicated by federal prosecutors and has denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme until long afterward.
Prosecutors said in Friday’s filing that the attempt by Baroni and Kelly to conceal the true purpose of their actions “negates their contention that they lacked fair warning that their conduct was wrong.” They said the use of a “sham” story about a traffic study to explain the closures was a “lie” that demonstrated “conscious wrongdoing.”
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