2 ex-Christie aides convicted in bridge plot want new trial
NEWARK - Two former aides to Republican Gov. Chris Christie convicted in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case filed for a new trial Friday, a week after a federal jury found them guilty on all counts in a scheme to use gridlock to punish a political opponent.
Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a top appointee to the authority that operates the bridge, were each convicted on seven counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and misusing the bridge for improper purposes.
Prosecutors said they engineered traffic jams in the town adjacent to the bridge to retaliate against its Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie in 2013.
Christie, a member of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team, wasn't charged, but testimony during the trial contradicted what he's said he knew about it. He continued this week to deny any prior knowledge.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence was selected Friday to lead Trump's transition team, replacing Christie. Christie will now serve as vice chairman.
Meanwhile, a New Jersey lawmaker who co-chaired a legislative committee that probed the lane closings in 2014 called this week for impeachment hearings and for the release of notes on Christie's interviews with federal investigators.
On Thursday, Christie's office called state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg's calls for hearings "ridiculous."
David Wildstein, a former political blogger who attended high school with Christie in the 1970s and was Baroni's right-hand man at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty in 2015 and testified for the government at the trial.
Attorneys for Baroni and Kelly argued in court that jurors should have been instructed to return not-guilty verdicts if they believed the government didn't prove the two had conspired with Wildstein for the purpose of punishing Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. Wildstein testified he concocted the scheme.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton disagreed, ruling the government didn't have to prove the motive behind the conspiracy, only that Baroni and Kelly conspired to break the law -- in this case, to misapply Port Authority property, i.e., the bridge.
Defense attorneys filed a motion for a mistrial during jury deliberations last week that was denied by Wigenton. The motion was redacted, and neither attorney has revealed what it contained.
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