Indictments For Former Top Christie Aide And Port Authority Executive In BridgeGate Scandal
The “BridgeGate” scandal erupted into public view once again last Friday with the guilty plea of former Port Authority director David Wildstein and the unsealing of an indictment against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.
Besides providing significantly more detail as to the specifics of the how and why of the September 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closings, the nine-count indictment includes two counts under 18 U.S.C. 666, related to the theft or conversion of the property of an organization receiving federal funds. The indictment alleges that Beroni and Kelly misused Port Authority property and personnel as part of a political vendetta against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. In retaliation for Sokolich’s refusal to endorse Governor Christie for re-election, the pair, along with Wildstein, are charged with reducing access lanes on the George Washington Bridge on the first day of school, creating a nightmare traffic jam that gained national attention.
Legal commentators were quick to point to the novelty of this use of 18 U.S.C. 666, which is typically deployed in run of the mill corruption cases involving theft or embezzlement, and the likelihood that it would meet with resistance from defense counsel. Weighing in the government’s favor is the fact that the United States has already secured a guilty plea and future cooperation from alleged co-conspirator David Wildstein. Additionally, many of the documents supporting the allegations (including Kelly’s “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email to Wildstein) have already been public for over a year.
On Monday, both Kelly and Baroni pleaded not guilty.