NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who pleaded guilty in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case returned to the witness stand Monday in the federal fraud trial of two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.Rielly, Mrazek Lead Maple Leafs To Win Over Islanders
Wildstein told jurors Baroni and Kelly approved the plan to realign traffic lanes with no advance notice to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. He says they also approved his idea to not respond to complaints once the traffic jams started.
Wildstein testified that he and Baroni had visited the George Washington Bridge prior to the lanes being shut down in 2013. He said he asked three bridge workers about three lanes leading out of Fort Lee.
Wildstein noted how the lanes could be used as “leverage” against Fort Lee’s Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich who had still not endorsed Gov. Chris Chrisite for re-election.
Wildstein was sent weekly email updates by the governor’s office regarding which Democrats supported Christie and who did not.
Wildstein also testified when he suggested to Baroni the idea of timing the gridlock to coincide with the first day of school, Baroni smiled and said, “Fantastic.”
Wildstein pleaded guilty in 2015 to orchestrating traffic jams near the bridge in 2013 to punish Sokolich for not endorsing Christie.
CBS2’s Meg Baker reported Kelly’s lawyer Michael Critchley would not comment on emails exchanged between her and Wildstein that connected the two to plans to shut down lanes to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee. Wildstein again said he answered to Kelly because she was the boss.
“It’s not appropriate for an attorney to discuss maters such as this during the course of a trial,” Critchley said.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg said she was disappointed to know that Pat Schuber, who serves on the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, knew about the planned lane enclosures before it was enacted.READ MORE: NYPD Officer Jason Rivera Fatally Shot, Officer Wilbert Mora Critically Injured Responding To Harlem Domestic Dispute
“After I wrote to him, he told me he was going to look into it. Well, apparently he didn’t have too much looking into if in fact what David Wilstein just testified to under oath is true,” Weinberg said.
The prosecutor’s office also also presented evidence regarding Wildstein’s character, pointing out a series of political hijinks to win elections. Wildstein said he told friends, including Baroni and Kelly, these stories because he “liked people to think I play hardball and went to extremes to win elections.”
Last week, Wildstein testified Baroni and Kelly were part of efforts by Christie’s administration to use the Port Authority, which runs bridges, tunnels, ports and airports, to provide political favors to New Jersey politicians in return for endorsements.
Wildstein, who was appointed to the Port Authority by Christie, said his role was to enforce the governor’s agenda by using grants, trips to the World Trade Center, and flags that flew over ground zero as gifts to Democratic officials to entice them to vote for Christie in his 2013 reelection bid.
Wildstein claimed he told Baroni that he had to focus on the “one constituent rule,” meaning “The only person he needed to make happy was Governor Christie.”
In earlier testimony, 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.
Kelly was Christie’s deputy chief of staff. Baroni was deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.
Kelly and Baroni are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, deprivation of civil rights and fraudulently using an agency that receives federal funds. The most serious charge carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence.
Wildstein will be back on the stand on Tuesday.MORE NEWS: FDNY Reminds New Yorkers To Use Space Heaters Safely As Temperatures Dip
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