Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Christie knew about bridge scheme, ex-official says

An attorney for a former Port Authority official at the center of the growing George Washington Bridge scandal says Gov. Chris Christie was in the loop about the lane closures as they occurred.

David Wildstein's lawyer, Alan Zegas, in a letter released Friday, called the decision to close the lanes “the Christie administration’s order.” The attorney also wrote “evidence exists” Christie knew about the shutdown at the time the lanes were closed and that Wildstein "contests the accuracy of various statements that the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some."

Christie's office shot back Friday, saying in an emailed statement that Zegas confirmed "what the Governor has said all along - he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein's motivations were for closing them to begin with."

"As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th," Christie's office said. "The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions."

More coverage
  • David Wildstein, the man implicating Christie
  • 1/31/14 Letter from Wildstein's Lawyer (PDF)
  • Wildstein was implicated in the political payback bombshell after documents surfaced indicating he and some of Christie’s staffers in September engineered the closure of two lanes of the heavily-trafficked bridge.

    The action caused four days of gridlock in the neighboring town of Fort Lee, N.J. Many characterized the closures as political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie in his bid for governor.

    Christie’s deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly infamously emailed Wildstein about the shutdown, writing, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Kelly was fired, while Christie appointee Wildstein resigned from his post as Port Authority director of interstate capital projects.

    Three weeks ago, Christie held a two-hour press conference during which he repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the lane closures before the media got ahold of the story. He instead said he believed at the time a traffic study was being performed and suggested rogue members of his inner circle were responsible for the scheme.  

    The same day, Wildstein appeared before a panel of New Jersey state lawmakers for a hearing into the scandal. Though he turned over 900-plus pages of documents in response to a subpoena, he chose during his testimony to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

    The letter, sent Friday to counsel for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, asked the agency to reconsider its decision not to pay for Wildstein’s legal representation in the matter. It stated Wildstein believed, in the days leading up to the hearing, that he would receive legal aid from the same attorneys representing former Port Authority commissioner William Baroni, who also resigned after being implicated in the closures. 

    Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

    Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

    Alex Wigglesworth PHILLY.COM
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