Two former allies of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie charged with plotting traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge face a Nov. 16 trial after a judge pushed the date back from July, citing the case’s complexity.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark on Tuesday postponed the case of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s ex-deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The delay will give lawyers for Kelly, 42, and Baroni, 43, adequate time to review documents and materials and further investigate the charges, according to Wigenton’s order.
Kelly and Baroni pleaded not guilty May 4 to charges they conspired to close access lanes to the bridge in 2013 to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not backing Christie’s re-election. The scandal has hurt Christie, a Republican, as he weighs a White House run in 2016.
Another ex-Port Authority official, David Wildstein, helped prosecutors build a case against Kelly and Baroni. He pleaded guilty May 1.
Kelly’s attorney, Michael Critchley, declined to comment on the delay. Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldassare, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
On May 13, Wigenton allowed Baroni to travel from May 18 to May 26 to Dublin to work on a campaign in support of a marriage-equality referendum. Prosecutors working for U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman agreed to the trip. Both Kelly and Baroni are free on $150,000 bond.
No Additional Charges
When the indictments were unsealed May 1, Fishman said he didn’t intend to bring additional charges “based on the evidence available to us today.”
The traffic snarls ended only when Patrick Foye, the Port Authority’s executive director and an appointee of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered the access lanes reopened on the fifth day.
The plot came to light with the publication of an e-mail sent by Kelly a month before the closures.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote on Aug. 13, 2013. “Got it,” replied Wildstein, then the interstate capital projects director at the Port Authority.
Kelly and Baroni are charged with conspiring to misuse property of an organization receiving federal benefits, misapplying property of such an organization, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to deprive Fort Lee residents of their civil rights, deprivation of civil rights and wire fraud.
The cases are U.S. v. Baroni, 15-cr-00193, and U.S. v. Wildstein, 15-cr-00209, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).