A former ally of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Friday pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the George Washington Bridge closure scandal, delivering another blow to Christie’s image at a time when he is trying to get his presidential campaign off the ground.
David Wildstein, who had been a senior Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy at a U.S. district court in Newark. He was released on his own recognizance on a $100,000 bond. The judge in the case cited his cooperation with prosecutors for the release term. Sentencing is set for August.
The judge was also expected to unseal indictments against Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Christie, according to the New York Times.
They were the first charges stemming from the September 2013 incident, which created four days of traffic snarls on the Hudson River crossing into New York City.
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT) at his office.
Wildstein’s attorney, Alan Zegas, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In December, a New Jersey legislative panel blamed Wildstein and another Christie aide for ordering the bridge lanes closed.
Christie has denied knowing about the incident, and the joint panel of Democrats and Republicans in December found no evidence he was involved. The political fallout has hurt his brand as he considers a run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Blunt-spoken Christie, who has yet to decide whether he will seek the White House, was seen a few months ago as one of the top Republican contenders for the party’s nomination for 2016 but has since been eclipsed by others – Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
A recent of likely voters in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican primary showed Christie in the second tier of possible White House contenders, with the support of just 5.8 percent of 1,064 Republican and Republican-leaning independents polled by Reach Communications on April 8 and 9.