Indictments in Chris Christie Bridge Case

William Barone and Bridget Anne Kelly have been indicted in the Chris Christie bridge scandal. The Indictment is here and is quite detailed. It does not appear to implicate Chris Christie.

Barone is the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Kelly is a former deputy chief of staff to Chris Christie. They were charged in nine counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud by “knowingly converting and intentionally misapplying property of an organization receiving federal benefits”. [More...]

A third member of the alleged conspiracy, David Wildstein (former Port official and high school buddy of Christie) pleaded guilty today to two conspiracy charges -- conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy against civil rights. The U.S. Attorney said no one else will be charged right now.

The gist of the conspiracy: Baroni, Wildstein and Kelly agreed to shut down lanes to the GW Bridge to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Chris Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign.

Wildstein's lawyer claims evidence shows Christie knew about the lane closures as they were occurring but he wouldn't give details.

At Wildstein's change of plea hearing, there was this exchange:

“Did you agree with Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly to punish Mayor Sokolich by causing significant lane access problems,” the judge asked, staring down from the bench at Mr. Wildstein.

“Yes,” Mr. Wildstein answered.

The Indictment alleges:

“The conspirators concocted and promoted a sham story that reducing the number of lanes and tollbooths accessible to the local approach was for a traffic study.”...The story was invented “to conceal the conspirators’ true punitive purpose.”

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    While there's no criminal indictment ... (5.00 / 5) (#2)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Fri May 01, 2015 at 03:52:59 PM EST
    ... filed against Gov. Christie personally, today's charges against both his appointee to the Port Authority and his deputy chief of staff most certainly offer a rather stunning and profound moral indictment of his administration.

    Further, speaking for myself only and based upon my own experience in state government, the No. 1 standing rule for any staff members of most any elected official is that you don't ever do anything that might embarrass the boss, were it to ever become public knowledge.

    Therefore, I find it hard to very hard to believe that at least six senior staff members at the most senior level of state government would undertake such an action against a real / perceived political opponent, without first gaining the boss's understanding and tacit approval that something will be done to that effect.

    After all, we're not talking about a fresh crop of political rookies who were hired by Gov. Christie right out of college. Bridget Anne Kelly, William Barone and David Wildstein have surely been around the block a time or two in this game, as have undoubtedly the rest of the governor's senior staff, appointees and advisors who've thus far been implicated in this scandal.

    So, while I can accept the idea that Christie might not have known the exact details of the retailiatory plot against Mayor Sokolich that was being discussed by at his most trusted senior advisors -- in his own office at the New Jersey State House, no less! --I'm simply not buying the notion that he was entirely out of the loop altogether.

    I mean, plausible deniability is one thing, but one simply doesn't rise to that level in politics, particularly in a big state like New Jersey, through blind trust and an uncanny ability to channel Sgt. Schultz at appropriate moments. It flies directly in the face of my own personal experience, and defies both logic and common sense.

    And if it IS somehow true that Christie didn't know at all, then it really screams volumes about his own gross administrative incompetence, because he undoubtedly should've known what was going on right under his own nose.

    So, either way, Chris Christie really has no business running for president of the United States, never mind remaining in place as governor of New Jersey.


    Absolutely correct, Donald (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Zorba on Fri May 01, 2015 at 04:56:11 PM EST
    I have always thought that there are two possibilities regarding this type of thing.
    Either the person at the top (in this case, Christie) knew about it and either condoned it or encouraged it or originated it, in which case he's complicit.
    Or he knew nothing about it, in which case he's an incompetent and clueless executive.
    Choose one.

    It's slightly more subtle than that (none / 0) (#12)
    by scribe on Sat May 02, 2015 at 07:07:07 PM EST
    It's not really a matter of his knowing nothing and therefore being an incompetent and clueless executive.  Logic does not necessarily require the head of an organization to know if his subordinates were plotting criminality, even though it was intended to benefit The Boss.

    But, rather, Christie was the man who chose these people for positions of authority.  He failed, miserably, in that fundamental executive's task of wisely choosing subordinates.  It's not that he didn't know these people were inclined toward criminal conduct.  He knew them all for years and had many examples of how they chose to operate.  But, he deemed their inclinations and patterns of behavior a good thing.

    So, he chose the criminally-inclined to be the people crafting and carrying out his policies.  Those who compared him to Tony Soprano could not have been more correct.


    Well said. (4.67 / 3) (#3)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2015 at 04:17:45 PM EST
    He's a thug, always has been a thug, and has surrounded himself with thugs.  They knew what the boss wanted and gave it to him - recall, he thought it was pretty funny, the idea that his aides could be doing something crooked like this.  Then he tried to blow it off, and so on and so on.
    Lard Lad ought to go back under his rock.

    Stench (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by christinep on Sat May 02, 2015 at 03:17:47 PM EST
    With the stench of the bridge scandal taking down his closest associates, the only remaining issue is how he performs his exit strategy from his presidential candidacy tease.  He is not going anywhere nationally; and, I'm guessing that there remains a question about his future in New Jersey.

    I think he's toast, (none / 0) (#9)
    by Zorba on Sat May 02, 2015 at 03:47:57 PM EST
    as far as his presidential aspirations are concerned.

    You're gonna need a bigger (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Repack Rider on Sat May 02, 2015 at 04:28:39 PM EST

    Not exactly going out on a limb. (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jack203 on Sun May 03, 2015 at 09:46:47 AM EST
    He never had a chance anyway Captain Obvious.

    And let's remember, these indictments ... (none / 0) (#13)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat May 02, 2015 at 11:39:57 PM EST
    ... only pertain to the closure of the George Washington Bridge. There's still the as-yet unresolved matter of the alleged shakedown of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, in which she claimed that Gov. Christie's aides conditioned the release of federal hurricane disaster aid for Hoboken to her entirely unrelated support of a development project which would benefit the Rockefeller Group:

    "E-mails and other documents from Hoboken show that in the same months that Sandy aid was under consideration, Hoboken officials were under considerable pressure to approve the proposal from the New York-based Rockefeller Group to develop a stretch of the city. To lobby on its behalf, the Rockefeller Group had hired the politically influential law firm Wolff and Samson, which is run by Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a Christie ally."

    This case is still under active investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office, and there's been speculation -- thus far unsubstantiated -- that now-former Port Authority Chairman David Samson is under threat of indictment himself for his alleged role in the Hoboken incident.

    And in my estimation, this part of the investigation likely poses a greater threat to Chris Christie, than does the parallel probe into the punitive retribution exactly against Ft. Lee by his staff. Mayor Zimmer, after all, is accusing his administration of extortion on behalf what appears to be Wolff & Samson's client.



    An even bigger one ... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Yman on Sun May 03, 2015 at 10:19:36 PM EST
    ... that's been talked about locally but has only recently received national attention.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Administration Facing New Criminal Investigation


    Honestly, I don't why ... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue May 05, 2015 at 01:10:05 PM EST
    ... so much of the media is fawning over this guy as though he's somehow a serious presidential prospect when, given all this baggage he brings with him, he's clearly otherwise. Same thing goes for Rick Perry, who's actually under criminal indictment.

    Agree, Donald ... Yet (none / 0) (#17)
    by christinep on Tue May 05, 2015 at 01:22:43 PM EST
    Could it be that the other Repub candidates are either so boring or so far right or so not-likely-to-prevail in their own skewed primaries that the Press turns to some heretofore feisty (blustering BSer)to build interest.  The Press has to push its papers and whatnot, after all.

    Or maybe said Press has a weird fondness for braggadocio.


    This just scratches the surface (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2015 at 03:26:23 PM EST
    As I recall it, Kelly was also one of Christie's "loyalists" (as he described them) in the US Attorney's office, who came with him when he became governor.  And she had a reputation for meanness.

    Baroni, well, his job at the Port Authority was created specifically for him, and was eliminated once he left.  He was there to be Christie's meat-puppet at the Port Authority and, many have noted, to try to steer money and projects to those who favored Christie or whom he wanted to favor.

    Here's hoping these two see the light and roll.

    I think Wildstein's lawyer has already done a masterful job - Zegas is one of the best criminal defenders in the state.

    Agreed, save for one small correction: (none / 0) (#7)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Fri May 01, 2015 at 07:47:49 PM EST
    It was David Wildstein's position as "Director of Interstate Capital Projects" that was created specifically for him at the Port Authority, and which was eliminated when he resigned in the immediate wake of this scandal. Bill Baroni's former post of Deputy Executive Director is a standard position at the Port Authority.

    It's hard to keep track of the chicanery, (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by scribe on Sat May 02, 2015 at 06:59:37 PM EST
    I'll admit.

    One more thing (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2015 at 04:20:33 PM EST
    I thought it kinda interesting that the civil rights conspiracy did NOT charge interference with the right to interstate travel.  Recall, the GWB connects Fort Lee, NJ with New York, NY, and all those people funneled through one lane were heading in one direction - across the state line.  Much more slowly than normal.
    I'd look for a superseding indictment if these two don't play ball, and quick.

    Christie (none / 0) (#5)
    by FlJoe on Fri May 01, 2015 at 04:37:41 PM EST
    should thank his lucky stars for Ms Mosley. Zero media coverage gives him a little more time to pretend he is still a player.