A former top appointee of Gov. Chris Christie charged in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal wants the case moved out of New Jersey.

Vehicles slow for tolls before crossing the George Washington Bridge. (John Moore/Getty Images)

An attorney for Bill Baroni filed a motion in federal court in Newark early Wednesday to have the case moved. Michael Baldassare wrote that a fair trial was impossible in New Jersey because of media coverage that has been "sensationalistic and inflammatory."

A trial is scheduled for next April.

Baroni, a former deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly were indicted last spring on counts including conspiracy, fraud and civil rights deprivation.

They're accused of orchestrating a scheme to snarl traffic in Fort Lee to punish its mayor for not endorsing Christie's 2013 re-election bid. Former Port Authority official David Wildstein has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Kelly and Baroni.

Christie, currently running for the GOP presidential nomination, hasn't been charged and has said he knew nothing of the alleged plan.

The closures plunged Fort Lee into gridlock for four days in September 2013 before the Port Authority's executive director ordered the lanes reopened. Baroni, Wildstein and Port Authority Chairman David Samson resigned following the scandal, and Kelly was fired by Christie.

Baroni's motion and a motion filed by Kelly's attorney late Tuesday also seek to pry loose additional information from the government under rules of discovery, which require the government to disclose evidence to the defendants, including evidence that might be exculpatory.

Kelly's motion seeks thousands of documents that the governor's office has claimed are privileged and off-limits, including emails sent during the closures between Christie's then-press secretary and Wildstein.

Baroni renewed his request for access to interview notes made by Gibson Dunn, the law firm hired by Christie at taxpayer expense to investigate the lane closings. The firm's report issued in 2014 cleared Christie of wrongdoing, though it didn't interview several key players.

Baroni also wants the government to disclose its chain of custody and other information about a computer hard drive Wildstein allegedly stole from Baroni's work computer and showed to government investigators.

Both defendants seek the names of unindicted co-conspirators referred to in the indictment and more detailed information from other players in the saga including former Port Authority deputy general counsel Philip Kwon, who worked under Christie at the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, which brought the indictment against Kelly and Baroni in May, declined comment on the filings Wednesday.

 

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