Targeted mayor says bridge plot charges a 'punch in the gut'

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2015 6:42 AM
Targeted mayor says bridge plot charges a 'punch in the gut'

FORT LEE, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey mayor targeted for political retribution for not supporting Gov. Chris Christie's re-election effort in 2013 said that indictments in the case Friday were a "punch in the gut."

After a former Christie ally pleaded guilty to conspiracy in his role in the scheme to shutdown lanes of the George Washington Bridge, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said it was "reprehensible" and "despicable" that the plotters allegedly targeted the first day of school to further hurt residents.

David Wildstein, a former high-ranking official at the transportation agency that operates the bridge, pleaded guilty Friday; two others were charged in an indictment.

"If you want to get me, get me," Sokolich said, adding that he wants the truth to come out. "And I want to make sure that from the truth this never happens again."

Here's a look at where the case stands:

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THE PLEA

Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie and later became a top official in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts. He admitted that he helped plot lane closures in Fort Lee on an approach to the world's busiest bridge as political payback against that community's Democratic mayor for failing to support Christie's re-election campaign.

The lane closures caused four massive morning traffic jams in September 2013.

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THE CHARGES

Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his former top appointee at the Port Authority, Bill Baroni, were each charged with seven criminal counts including wire fraud and civil rights depravation.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says Wildstein, Kelly and Baroni used public resources for political purposes.

Kelly said she was innocent. Baroni's lawyer said Baroni was innocent. Both asserted that Wildstein was lying.

Kelly and Baroni are due in court Monday for arraignments.

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CHRISTIE'S ROLE

Christie, who is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination next year, was not implicated in the indictment.

Christie says the indictment supports his position from the beginning that he had nothing to do with the lane closures or cover-up.

"The moment I first learned of this unacceptable behavior I took action, firing staff believed to be accountable, calling for an outside investigation and agreeing to fully cooperate with all appropriate investigations, which I have done," he said in a statement.

Wildstein's attorney, Alan Zegas, repeated a statement Friday that was first made in January 2014 that "evidence exists to establish that" Christie knew of the lane closures while they were occurring. He didn't say what that evidence is.

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HOBOKEN CASE CLOSED

Lawyers for another former Christie aide disclosed a letter they received Friday from the U.S. attorney's office stating that it has closed the investigation into whether state officials threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy aid from Hoboken. City officials said they were told aid would depend partly on whether the mayor supported a private real estate development deal.

The developer was represented by the law firm of David Samson, who was also the chairman of the Port Authority and a Christie confidante.