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Christie ally could face prison in Bridge scandal

Glenn Townes | 5/4/2015, 11:23 a.m.
The cloud of a successful 2016 run for president got a lot darker for Gov. Chris Christie on Friday morning ...
Chris Christie

The cloud of a successful 2016 run for president got a lot darker for Gov. Chris Christie on Friday morning in a Newark courtroom after a former senior executive and close ally of the governor plead guilty to conspiracy charges and admitted to ordering lane closures at the George Washington Bridge (GWB) in Fort Lee in September 2013.

George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River; looking east from Fort Lee to Manhattan.

George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River; looking east from Fort Lee to Manhattan.

Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein made the damning admissions in a federal court hearing Friday morning and implicated two other flunkies—fellow Port Authority of NY/NJ senior executive—ex-Deputy Director Bill Baroni and disgraced ex- Christie chief of staff Bridget Kelly---were all complicit in creating the traffic jam as political payback to Fort Lee mayor Democrat Mark Sokolich for not supporting the 2012 re-election campaign of Christie.

At a press conference following the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said based on a lengthy investigation and various witness testimonies, evidence fully supports the fact that the GWB lane closures was a scheme concocted by the threesome as retaliation to the mayor of Fort Lee. “{As of now} Based on the evidence currently available to us we are not going to charge anyone else in this scheme,” he said. However, an attorney for the disgraced Wildstein hinted the prosecution has a smoking gun of sorts that implicates Christie had full knowledge of the illicit operation, despite his repeated denial of the scheme. In a statement released shortly after the court proceedings and various news conferences, Christie said, “Today's charges make clear what I've said from day one is true---I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.”

Officials from the Port Authority and the governor’s office shut down two of the three access lanes in Fort Lee. The massive traffic jams virtually shut down the GWB—a major thoroughfare between New York and New Jersey—for four days in September 2013. The shutdowns were conducted under the ruse of a traffic study and was purposefully planned during the first week of school; the Yom Kippur holiday and September 11th anniversary events, when traffic on the already heavily traveled bridge would be at above normal peak levels. The scheme cost the city, state and commuters millions of dollars in lost revenue and time. Additionally, dozens of people were delayed medical treatment for emergencies by EMT due to the closures. U.S. Attorney Fishman said, “We are continuing our investigation into this issue and I will not speculate as to who know what or when or if they know about it.” Both Kelly and Baroni have denied involvement in the scheme and each called Wildstein “a liar.” Wildstein will be sentenced in August and could face up to 2 years in federal prison.