NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jurors finished a third day of deliberations in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial Wednesday without reaching a verdict.
Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, civil rights violations and misusing the bridge to retaliate against a mayor who didn’t endorse Christie by causing traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee.
They testified during the trial that they thought the closure of access lanes was part of a traffic study concocted by former Port Authority official David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty. Wildstein testified that both defendants were aware of the plan to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich.
On their first full day of deliberations Tuesday, jurors asked the judge if they could convict the defendants of causing the traffic jams if they acquitted them of the conspiracy count — and vice versa — and if they needed to reach a verdict on the top conspiracy count before moving on to the other counts.
They also asked if they could convict the defendants of conspiracy if the lane closures were not meant to punish the mayor. That was a point of bitter contention between defense attorneys and prosecutors, with lawyers for Kelly and Baroni arguing last week that jurors should be told that if the government did not prove the defendants took part in a retaliation plot, they could find them not guilty.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton disagreed, ruling that motive was not an element that had to be proved by the government.
Kelly’s defense said the judge’s answer to the jury’s question was “directing a verdict of guilty,” WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
Kelly and Baroni were named in a nine-count indictment in 2015. They face up to 20 years in prison on the most serious counts.
Deliberations began Monday afternoon and were scheduled to resume Thursday morning.
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