UPDATE 1:34: Fishman: “Based on the evidence that is currently available to us, we’re not going to charge anybody else in this scheme.” Fishman would not comment on Wildstein’s attorney’s claim that Christie had knowledge of the lane closures. And he did not offer comment on the Hoboken allegations. Asked if the special circumstances of GWB being a terror target might have led to charges, Fishman replies No. Bridget Kelly press conference coming later today.
UPDATE 1:24pm: Fishman to press says the counts against Wildstein were a conspiracy “for what amounts to a political vendetta.” And that closing the lanes amounts to a violation of the civil rights of Fort Lee residents. That they deliberately waited until Sept 9 – the first day of school – to create the traffic chaos. A “real issue of life or death.” That even after safety issues were raised, Baroni, Kelly & Wildstein “just kept up the scheme as long as they could.” The indictments charge that Baroni, Wildstein, Kelly concocted the “traffic study” story to explain away the lane closures, that it was a sham. Arraignment of Kelly, Baroni will be Monday 11am, per Fishman.
UPDATE 1:23pm: Wisniewski & Weinberg call Bridgegate admissions “sickening.”
UPDATE 1:00: Kelly and Baroni indictments are unsealed, were filed April 23. Wildstein signed his own plea agreement Jan. 21, 2015.
Today, David Wildstein pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in connection with the 2013 GWB lane closures, now known as the Bridgegate scandal. And in today’s hearing in the Federal Courthouse in Newark, he admits to conspiring with Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly to close the lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 to “punish” Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Gov. Christie in his 2013 re-election. As other well-known Democratic electeds did.
Indictments are now expected for two former members of Gov. Christie’s inner circle, one in the Governor’s office and another placed by him at Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Judge Susan D. Wigenton, who presided over the case, had Wildstein acknowledge his criminal acts in a series of questions, all of which he answered “yes,”. A softly-spoken “yes,” reports New York Times’ Kate Zernike:, as Wildstein stood at the defense table:
She asked if he conspired with Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly to shut down lanes to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee for not endorsing Mr. Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign.
“Did you agree with Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly to punish Mayor Sokolich by causing significant lane access problems,” the judge asked, staring down from the bench at Mr. Wildstein.
“Yes,” Mr. Wildstein answered.
On the jump, remembering how close Christie was to Kelly & Baroni.
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff. It was Kelly, the discovery of whose email to Wildstein – “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” broke the story of the GWB lane closures into Christie’s inner sanctum. His story before then was that he didn’t know a thing about it and nobody on his staff was involved. In the famous 2-hour press conference given by the Governor after that news broke, he savaged the top aide, claiming outrage that she had “lied” to him, betrayed his “trust” and made him “sad”. Not that Christie, a trained lawyer mind you, had asked her directly. No.
Bill Baroni resigned the Port Authority in disgrace. A Republican who served years in both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, he was appointed by Christie in 2010 as Port Authority’s Deputy Executive Director, paying $289,667 per year. In his (unsworn) testimony to the NJ Assembly Transportation Committee’s early investigation of the lane closures, Baroni insisted they were due to a “traffic study,” which later testimony revealed to be a lie. It was an indication that at Port Authority’s highest level, Christie’s minions were willing to place political allegiance to him above the safety of hundreds of thousands of drivers and first responders on the busiest bridge in the world.