Ex-Christie associates lose bid for new trial in ‘Bridgegate’ case

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By Joseph Ax | NEW YORK

NEW YORK A federal judge rejected a request for
a new trial by two former associates of New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie who were convicted for their roles in the “Bridgegate” lane closure scandal.

The decision late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Susan
Wigenton clears the way for the two defendants to be sentenced
on March 15.

Bridget Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff under the
Republican governor, and Bill Baroni, the former deputy
executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, were convicted in November of orchestrating the shutdown
of access lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September
2013.

U.S. prosecutors said the resulting gridlock in Fort Lee,
New Jersey, was intended to punish the town’s Democratic mayor
for declining to back Christie’s re-election campaign.

Christie has not been charged in the case and has denied any
knowledge of the plan. But Kelly and another conspirator, former
Port Authority official David Wildstein, both testified that
Christie was aware of the lane closures before they occurred.

Wildstein pleaded guilty and appeared at trial as the
government’s star witness.

In asking for an acquittal or a new trial, Kelly’s lawyers
had argued that Wigenton erred when she instructed jurors that
they could convict the defendants even if prosecutors failed to
prove they had intentionally targeted the mayor for retribution.

The motivation for the scheme, Kelly’s lawyers said, was at
the core of the government’s case.

But Wigenton said motive, while central to the prosecution,
is not a required element of the crimes for which Baroni and
Kelly were convicted.

“The government was under no obligation to introduce
evidence of motive, although motive helps present a coherent
narrative of events to a jury,” she wrote.

Lawyers for Baroni and Kelly did not immediately respond to
requests for comment. They can still ask a U.S. appeals court to
overturn the verdict after sentencing has taken place.

A spokesman for New Jersey’s chief federal prosecutor, U.S.
Attorney Paul Fishman, declined to comment on the ruling.

The scandal’s fallout helped sink Christie’s once-promising
political career. He was passed over for a position in President
Donald Trump’s administration after his own presidential bid
sputtered, and he has seen record-low approval ratings in New
Jersey.



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