NEWARK, N.J. — The prosecution rested its case Thursday against two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie charged in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial.
The trial of former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and former bridge authority executive Bill Baroni is in its fourth week.
Kelly and Baroni are charged with closing access lanes to the bridge in 2013 to cause traffic jams to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, who didn’t support Christie’s re-election. They have pleaded not guilty and have said the government has twisted federal law to turn their actions into crimes. They also have said other people with more power and influence were involved in the lane closures but aren’t being prosecuted.
Jurors on Thursday saw video of Baroni’s testimony before a state legislative committee in 2013 in which he says the lane closures were part of a traffic study. Prosecutors contend that was a cover story to hide the true nature of the scheme.
An FBI agent also testified several emails had been deleted from Kelly’s account, including one in which she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The bridge, one of the busiest in the world, connects Fort Lee with New York City.
Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldassare, called as his first witness Charles McKenna, Christie’s chief counsel in 2013 and an assistant U.S. attorney under Christie before that.
McKenna described meeting separately with Baroni and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey colleague David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty, in December 2013 to ask them to resign.
McKenna testified that even though Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye had told a legislative committee in early December that no traffic study existed, he didn’t question Baroni on details about the lane closures.
“I was under the impression there was a traffic study — a traffic study that didn’t go well but a traffic study nonetheless,” he said.
Fort Lee was plunged into four days of gridlock during the week of Sept. 9, 2013. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s pleas for help were ignored, part of the plan cooked up by Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein, prosecutors say.
Baroni is expected to testify early next week. Kelly also is expected to testify.
Christie, who is advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has denied knowing anything about the traffic plot while it was taking place.