Bridgegate Contributor Pleads the Fifth [VIDEO]
One of Gov. Chris Christie's appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was found to be in contempt on Thursday after refusing to answer almost every question from an Assembly panel regarding the latest Bridgegate developments.
David Wildstein, who resigned from his post last month as the controversy grew, "asserted his right to remain silent" as the Assembly Committee on Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities tried to gather more details on the Port Authority's decision to reduce the number of George Washington Bridge access lanes in Fort Lee late last year.
The move led to a traffic nightmare for locals; Democrats called the closures a form of punishment by the Christie administration because the town's mayor failed to endorse Christie for re-election. That claim ended up being on target, once subpoenaed documents showed Wildstein conversing with a Christie aide, who has since been fired, about the traffic tie-up.
"I don't believe that Mr. Wildstein is guilty of anything criminal, yet at the same time, he has a right under both the federal and state constitutions to not give answers that can be used by a prosecutor, were they to charge him," Alan Zegas, Wildstein's lawyer, told lawmakers.
Committee chair Asm. John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) responded by quoting terms included in the subpoena, suggesting any witness who refuses to answer questions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
"Mr. Wildstein's performance before the committee today was perplexing and disappointing," Wisniewski said after the hearing. "He left the committee no choice but to find him in contempt."
The charge is to be referred to a prosecutor's office in the next few days. The penalty would be up to 18 months in prison, according to The Associated Press, but jail time is usually not a threat for people convicted of such offenses.
Assembly Democrats have indicated Bridget Kelly, the recently-fired aide, is the next to be subpoenaed. Gov. Christie distanced himself from the scandal on Thursday during a lengthy press conference, maintaining he had no input on the lane closures.
New Jersey Assembly Democrats