Christie Allies Kelly, Baroni to Testify at Bridge Trialby
Opening statements set for Sept. 19 in trial over GWB jams
Lawyers set to question jurors on Tuesday to pick final pool
Two former allies of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plan to testify at their trial to dispute charges that in 2013 they created four days of traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge to punish a local mayor for not backing Christie’s re-election.
“Without a doubt, she’s going to testify,” Bridget Anne Kelly’s lawyer Michael Critchley told reporters Monday. Kelly was Christie’s deputy chief of staff.
“Bill’s going to testify,” said Michael Baldassare, a lawyer for Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Both lawyers spoke after a hearing over the selection of jurors for the six-week trial in federal court in Newark, New Jersey. Defendants have the right to change their mind about testifying. But the case could turn on how Kelly and Baroni perform if they take the stand in the biggest criminal trial in New Jersey in years.
A group of 12 jurors will decide whether Kelly and Baroni conspired with a third former Christie ally, David Wildstein, to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, as prosecutors allege. Four alternates also will be chosen. Wildstein pleaded guilty and is set to testify for the government.
Baroni’s lawyers accused the government of shifting positions ahead of the trial. In a filing on Sunday, they asked U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton to bar prosecutors from arguing to jurors that the purpose of the conspiracy was not only to punish Sokolich, but also to curry favor with Christie.
Such an allegation “represents a fundamental and significant shift in the government’s theory of the case,” Baldassare wrote.
The lawyers return to court Tuesday to question potential jurors who were among 253 people who answered dozens of questions in writing last week over their attitudes about the case. Of those, prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed that 114 couldn’t be fair and should be stricken, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes said in court on Monday.
Of 139 jurors who are to return Tuesday, 79 had raised some problems for one side or another, while 60 people presented no concerns, Cortes said.
The case is U.S. v. Baroni, 15-cr-00193, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).