Ex-Christie associates lose bid for new
trial in 'Bridgegate' case
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[March 03, 2017]
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge
rejected a request for a new trial by two former associates of New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie who were convicted for their roles in the
"Bridgegate" lane closure scandal.
The decision late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton clears
the way for the two defendants to be sentenced on March 15.
Bridget Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff under the Republican
governor, and Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted in November of
orchestrating the shutdown of access lanes at the George Washington
Bridge in September 2013.
U.S. prosecutors said the resulting gridlock in Fort Lee, New Jersey,
was intended to punish the town's Democratic mayor for declining to back
Christie's re-election campaign.
Christie has not been charged in the case and has denied any knowledge
of the plan. But Kelly and another conspirator, former Port Authority
official David Wildstein, both testified that Christie was aware of the
lane closures before they occurred.
Wildstein pleaded guilty and appeared at trial as the government's star
In asking for an acquittal or a new trial, Kelly's lawyers had argued
that Wigenton erred when she instructed jurors that they could convict
the defendants even if prosecutors failed to prove they had
intentionally targeted the mayor for retribution.
The motivation for the scheme, Kelly's lawyers said, was at the core of
the government's case.
But Wigenton said motive, while central to the prosecution, is not a
required element of the crimes for which Baroni and Kelly were
"The government was under no obligation to introduce evidence of motive,
although motive helps present a coherent narrative of events to a jury,"
[to top of second column]
Bridget Anne Kelly, former deputy chief of staff to New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie, exits the court in the Bridgegate trial at
the Federal Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, U.S. November 04,
2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Lawyers for Baroni and Kelly did not immediately respond to requests for
comment. They can still ask a U.S. appeals court to overturn the verdict
after sentencing has taken place.
A spokesman for New Jersey's chief federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney
Paul Fishman, declined to comment on the ruling.
The scandal's fallout helped sink Christie's once-promising political
career. He was passed over for a position in President Donald Trump's
administration after his own presidential bid sputtered, and he has seen
record-low approval ratings in New Jersey.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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