NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A judge postponed closing arguments in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case Thursday, citing a “legal issue.”
Bridget Kelly, Gov. Chris Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, former bridge authority executive, arrived at the federal courthouse in Newark on Thursday morning expecting the long-awaited start of closing arguments in the nearly six week trial.
Baroni’s attorney appeared optimistic, saying he is “looking forward to moving forward,” CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
However, the judge sent jurors home, citing a legal issue. Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not comment on what the issue was.
Kelly and Baroni are charged with creating traffic jams in order to punish Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election in 2013.
The move came after the judge instructed the jurors that the crux of their decision should be based on whether or not the prosecution proved that Kelly and Baroni misused Port Authority resources when carrying out the lane closures that led to traffic backups near the George Washington Bridge.
The judge said that jurors should not be weighing whether the Fort Lee lane closures were political retaliation towards Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, who refused to endorse Christie for re-election in 2013.
Kelly’s attorney appeared to be taken aback by the judge’s suggestion, saying that the allegations of political playback was what he thought the case was all about.
Her sometimes tearful testimony, which spanned over parts of four days, contained revelations that Christie may have known about the lane realignments near the bridge well before they were put into effect, causing massive gridlock in the town of Fort Lee in September 2013.
Kelly’s attorney has insisted, as she did on the witness stand, that Kelly thought the closures were a part of a legitimate traffic study.
The defense rested its case on Wednesday without calling Christie to the stand to testify.
Kelly and Baroni face nine criminal counts each, including wire fraud and civil rights offenses. They contend any political retaliation plot was David Wildstein’s creation.
Closing arguments are expected to last two days, which means the jury of seven women and five men could begin deliberating as early as Tuesday.
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