- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - An indictment charging two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie with crimes in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal is a “fantasy” that misapplies federal law and relies on statements made under immunity, lawyers for the defendants argued in briefs seeking to have the charges thrown out.

In court filings late Wednesday, Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni argued they violated no federal law and gained no financial benefit from the September 2013 traffic jams allegedly created to punish a mayor who wasn’t endorsing Christie.

Kelly was Christie’s deputy chief of staff and Baroni was an appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that operates the bridge. The two are scheduled for trial this fall on wire fraud, civil rights and other charges. A second Port Authority official, David Wildstein, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify for the government.

Christie has not been charged and has denied knowledge of the scheme.

Kelly’s brief Wednesday argued that she can’t be charged with deprivation of civil rights because there’s no clearly established constitutional right to be free from improperly created traffic. Baroni’s brief joined in that argument.



In addition, Baroni’s filing claimed prosecutors are improperly using his testimony before a New Jersey legislative committee.

During that testimony, in late November 2013, Baroni told the committee the lane closures were part of a traffic study in Fort Lee, the town adjacent to the bridge. Two of three access lanes from the town to the bridge’s toll booths were closed for several days, snarling traffic in the town for hours until a Port Authority official ordered the lanes reopened.

In his brief, Baroni reiterated his argument that New Jersey law and a 1957 state Supreme Court ruling prevent his statements to the committee from being used against him except in a criminal perjury proceeding. Baroni is not charged with perjury in the federal indictment.

Prosecutors have argued that Baroni’s testimony is admissible because he wasn’t served a subpoena by the committee and wasn’t under oath; attorney Michael Baldassare wrote Wednesday that the fact Baroni testified under threat of subpoena and was inadvertently not sworn in doesn’t remove the immunity.

Both Kelly and Baroni rejected the government’s argument that they gained an economic benefit by using the Port Authority to allegedly set up the lane closures because absent that, they would have had to use their own money to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

The government “cites no legal support that a fantasy like this can establish the element of a federal crime,” Baldassare wrote.

___

Follow David Porter at https://twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide