NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Federal prosecutors say two former top aides to Gov. Chris Christie knew they were engaging in wrongdoing when they closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival.

The allegation was included in court papers the prosecutors filed late Friday in response to motions made by Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni to dismiss their criminal indictments. Prosecutors say the pair engaged in “lies and deceit” by creating a cover story that the lane reductions were part of a traffic study.

Baroni and Kelly were indicted on nine counts last year after being charged with creating a massive traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 to punish the Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini reported.

Baroni is the former deputy executive director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, while Kelly served as Christie’s deputy chief of staff. They say the charges are based on vague federal laws that were twisted to fit the facts of the case.

Another defendant, David Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie and later became a top official in the Port Authority, pleaded guilty in May to two criminal counts. He admitted that he helped plot lane closures in Fort Lee on an approach to the George Washington Bridge as political payback against that community’s Democratic mayor for failing to support Christie’s re-election campaign.  

Friday’s briefing by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office shuts down the defendants’ claim they didn’t have fair warning about their misconduct, saying their cover-up story that the gridlock was due to a traffic study demonstrates conscious wrongdoing.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the scheme, and a taxpayer-funded report he commissioned absolved him of wrongdoing.

Their lawyers have until April 4 to reply to the government’s brief.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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