time for some legal problems in newark
The corruption trial over New Jersey's "Bridgegate" scandal, which relates to a 2013 incident where several lanes of the George Washington Bridge were reportedly closed for political vengeance reasons, started Monday in Newark with U.S. prosecutors alleging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) knew of the plot as it unfolded. The New York Times reports prosecutors made the claim during opening statements, where two former Christie administration officials are on trial: Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, which oversees the bridge.
Kelly and Baroni are accused of conspiring to close bridge access lanes in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in September 2013, to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D) for not endorsing Christie in that year's gubernatorial race. Another Port Authority official, David Wildstein, has already pleaded guilty and is expected to be a "star witness" for the prosecution, Philly Voice reports; he was the recipient of Kelly's now-famous email in August 2013 calling for "some traffic problems in Fort Lee." The next month, on Sept. 9, two of the three lanes that allow commuters access to the George Washington Bridge were closed, causing gridlock in Sokolich's riverside town.
Lawyers for the defense had previously claimed Christie knew of the plot, though Christie himself has consistently denied knowledge of the closings since they occurred. In November 2013, Christie coasted to re-election by claiming 60 percent of the vote, and after a failed run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has become a top surrogate for the party's standard-bearer, Donald Trump.