UPDATED: BridgeGhazi Guilty Plea WAS First Shoe To Drop
By D.B. Hirsch
May 1, 2015 8:24 am - NewsBehavingBadly.com
[su_right_ad]May 1, 2012, 2:00pmEST — We predicted that David Wildstein’s guilty plea on two counts of conspiracy in l’affaire BridgeGhazi would be the first shoe to drop. We were right:
Two key figures in the Bridgegate scandal — Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly — were each indicted on nine counts, according to court documents unsealed Friday.
Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff of Gov. Chris Christie, allegedly conspired to close the local access lanes of the George Washington Bridge in 2013. …
“Public officials must use government resources for proper government purposes,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. “The indictment alleges, and Wildstein admitted, that the three defendants used Port Authority resources to exact political retribution against a public official who would not endorse the Governor for re-election, and concocted and promoted a bogus cover story to execute their plan and to cover their tracks.”
Wildstein admitted that the bridge closings were political revenge:
Wildstein, 53, admitted in federal court to conspiring with former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director William Baroni and Gov. Chris Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly to “punish” Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid. … He was released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond in return for his cooperation with the government and faces 21 to 27 months in federal prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 6.
May 1, 2015, 8:25amEST — Grab the popcorn, because The Doc smells a plea deal for David Wildstein:
A former Port Authority official and ally of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is expected to plead guilty on Friday to the first charges stemming from the 16-month federal investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closings scandal.
The United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, announced early on Friday that there would be a “proceeding of interest in a criminal matter” related to the closings at 11 a.m. in front of Judge Susan D. Wigenton in United States District Court in Newark. Mr. Fishman will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. to discuss the investigation, breaking his long silence over the inquiry.
Now that’s no surprise, as news about the pending plea leaked earlier this week. Here’s the part that caught our eye:
Mr. Fishman is expected to announce other indictments in the case, but it was not clear who would be among those indictments.
A couple of names to keep an eye out for will be former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly, former NY/NJ Port Authority grand high poobah David Samson (despite Times speculation that he is not likely to be indicted today), and, of course, the governor and would-be presidential candidate himself.
For those not familiar with the background, the Times provides a primer:
Documents released as part of a legislative inquiry into the closings indicated that the administration had been trying to freeze out the town’s mayor after he declined to endorse Mr. Christie’s re-election.
The lane-closing fiasco set off a decline of fortunes for Mr. Christie, who had emerged from his 2013 re-election as one of the Republican Party’s most promising hopes for the 2016 presidential contest.
An investigation into what started as political payback — shutting down access lanes to the world’s busiest bridge to punish a local official — has come to include questions about patronage at the Port Authority and the effort by Mr. Christie’s administration and re-election campaign to secure endorsements from a broad spectrum of local officials.
Interviews and subpoenas have indicated that investigators from the United States attorney’s office have gone beyond the lane closings to also look into the administration’s efforts to conceal them as a traffic study. In recent months, the investigation expanded further to look into allegations that David Samson, a longtime confidant to Mr. Christie and the chairman of the authority, pressured United Airlines to reinstate a flight to an airport near his weekend home in South Carolina.
Several sources close to the investigation said this week that they believed that the indictment would not include Mr. Samson, but that an indictment involving the so-called “chairman’s flight” would come at a later date.