Two officials indicted, one more pleads guilty in toll bridge scandal

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Friday, May 01, 2015

A former Port of New York and New Jersey official and a senior staffer for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were indicted on Friday, May 1, for allegedly misusing Port Authority resources to snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge, an act the U.S. Attorney’s Office says was carried out to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for not endorsing Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election. Another Port Authority official has pleaded guilty in the case.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and investigators announced a nine-count indictment against former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director William E. Baroni Jr. and former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who worked for Christie.

Former Port Authority director of interstate capital projects David Wildstein pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of conspiracy, according to Fishman’s office in a press release.

According to Fishman’s office, Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein decided to deliberately punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich after discovering that Sokolich would not endorse Christie in the November 2013 election.

On the morning of Sept. 9, 2013, the alleged conspirators began disregarding inquiries from Sokolich on an “urgent matter” and instead hatched a scheme to reduce the number of lanes on the George Washington Bridge and tell people it was for a “traffic study” to conceal their intentions.

In an ensuing investigation, Baroni provided false and misleading testimony about the lane reductions, according to Fishman’s office.

Baroni and Kelly face fines and prison terms for each of the counts they have been charged with. Conspiracy to misuse Port Authority resources could lead to a five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine, while counts of wire fraud could lead to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The two defendants and Wildstein each face a 10-year sentence and $250,000 fine for conspiring to injure and oppress an individual’s civil rights.

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