Port Authority Executive Director Testifies Wildstein Was 'Protected' By Christie


NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Defense attorneys in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure trial claimed Thursday that prosecution witnesses have admitted to lying.

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, the defense also claimed that the prosecution’s key witness cannot be trusted.

For four days in September 2013, local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were shut down. Traffic was backed up into the streets, children could not get to school, and ambulances were unable to respond to emergencies.

David Wildstein, a former Port Authority appointee brought in by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, admitted to closing the lanes.

He claimed that Christie’s then-deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and then-Port Authority executive Bill Baroni, helped with the plan to close the lanes so as to punish Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse Christie in his reelection bid.

Kelly and Baroni are now on trial in the Bridgegate scandal. Wildstein cut a deal with the government, and is scheduled to take the stand as prosecutors’ key witness as early as Friday.

“He’s a classic con artist looking to work the system,” said Kelly defense attorney Michael Critchley. “You heard from the testimony that has come out. His credibility, to be kind, is suspect.”

In testimony Thursday, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director Patrick Foye told jurors that Wildstein terrorized hundreds, if not thousands, of Port Authority employees. Foye said Wildstein was abusive and was not trustworthy.

Foye said Wildstein was hated at the agency but was being “protected” by Christie. Wildstein attended high school with Christie.

He told jurors Wildstein was suspected of tapping phone lines at the Port Authority even after instigating the lane closures at the bridge, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported.

Wildstein also got domain sites and the names of politicians, including Foye, who at one point was so fearful he reached out to security at the Port Authority and had Wildstein’s picture posted across all of their facilities, Sloan reported.

But Foye said despite knowing everything he did about Wildstein, he failed to share that information with the feds.

Meanwhile, Foye Chief of Staff John Ma testified that Wildstein’s phone had “boxes attached to it” and an “expansion pack,” and that there was fear that “David was going to go after staffers.”

Wildstein claims Christie knew about the closures, but the governor has denied any involvement. The defense accused Foye, an appointee by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of knowing about the closures on the fourth day – but letting it go to make New Jersey look bad and get concessions on funds for New York projects.

Foye also admitted that he approved a press statement that claimed the closures were for a traffic study when he knew they were not.

Foye declined to comment outside court.

“Everything I have said I have said in court, I am not going to add to it,” he said. “It would be inappropriate.”

Kelly and Baroni will be taking the stand in their own defense — their attorneys claiming they were duped by Wildstein in believing the closures were a traffic study.

(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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