‘Bridgegate’ jury in New Jersey to hear closing arguments
Lawyers in New Jersey’s “Bridgegate” trial will begin delivering closing arguments on Thursday, seeking to sway jurors deliberating the fate of two former allies of Governor Chris Christie.
Jurors heard more than a month of testimony in the trial of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, operator of the bridge.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, and are expected to last into Friday.
The two former officials are charged with abusing their government positions by scheming in 2013 to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, said by the Port Authority to be the busiest bridge in the world.
The scandal damaged Christie’s political standing as he was beginning a campaign for the Republican nomination for president.
Christie is now a close ally of the nominee, New York real estate developer Donald Trump, and is leading Trump’s transition planning.
Federal prosecutors said during the trial that Christie knew about the lane closings ahead of time. Christie maintains that is not true. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.
The lane closures caused several days of massive gridlock on the New Jersey side of the bridge and hurt local businesses.
Christie’s aides ordered the shutdown of the lanes as payback for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who would not support Christie’s re-election in 2013, prosecutors say.
Baroni and Kelly have pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, civil rights deprivation and conspiracy charges. If convicted, they face potential prison terms.
Both defendants took the witness stand in their defense.
Kelly was asked about an email that set the scheme in motion in which she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” She said she was simply “parroting” the language another official used in describing the possible gridlock from a traffic study.
(Reporting by David Ingram and Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)