By Doshon Farad
NEWARK, N.J. — Nearly two years after the “Bridgegate” scandal involving a former member of Republican Governor Chris Christie’s staff, David Wildstein—the former director of Interstate Capital Projects at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in the infamous 2013 scandal that caused traffic on the George Washington Bridge to be severely delayed for four days.
He did so on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court. The traffic crisis he allegedly caused on the bridge which runs atop the borough of Fort Lee, New Jersey inconvenienced residents primarily.
The plea was announced during an afternoon press conference called by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. Joining him was F.B.I. Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel and several assistant U.S. Attorneys.
Later in the day, two other former Christie associates were indicted in the case. Former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director William E. Baroni Jr. and former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Anne Kelly were each charged by a federal grand jury in a nine-count indictment for scheming to misuse Port Authority’s resources to orchestrate and hide the causing of a traffic crisis in Fort Lee as a way of punishing town Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse the governor’s re-election campaign.
Fishman released a statement to the press outlining the incident:
“The indictment alleges, and Wildstein admitted, that the three defendants used Port Authority resources to exact political retribution against a public official who would not endorse the governor for re-election, and concocted and promoted a bogus cover story to execute their plan and to cover their tracks.
“On the morning of September 9, 2013, the people of Fort Lee, New Jersey woke up to a traffic nightmare. Cars and trucks were backed up from the entrance of the George Washington Bridge, choking the streets of Fort Lee.
“This sudden and unexpected gridlocked prevented the people of Fort Lee from going about their daily lives. Whether they were trying to get across the bridge or if they were traveling only a few blocks across town, it was the first day of school and the traffic apparently prevented many children from getting there on time.”
The attorney also mentioned while addressing the press that many people arrived late to work and that city officials had reported that “first responders were being delayed as they tried to reach those in need.”
Fishman asserted that three lanes and three toll booths on the bridge had been “deliberately reduced to just one lane and one toll booth” without any forewarning to drivers, leaving locals and city officials without any answers.
The three deliberately hashed their plan in August, but waited until September to “further ratchet up” harm to Fort Lee residents, according to Fishman. Wildstein, Baroni, and Kelly “concocted a story” about the supposed traffic study.
During the question and answer portion, he said that no one else is likely to be charged. “Based on evidence currently available, we aren’t going to charge anyone else in the scheme,” Fishman said. He did not mention if anyone else is being investigated.
Despite being pressed constantly by reporters, Fishman refused to talk about Gov. Christie. When asked if Gov. Christie was in the clear regarding the scandal, Fishman told Your Black World, “I’m not going to comment on whether anybody is going to be further investigated in connection with this or any other matter, ever.”
Wildstein is due to face sentencing in August, while Baroni and Kelly will be arraigned Monday morning at 11 a.m.
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