- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Defense attorneys in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case are trying again to get access to the cellphones of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and some of his former top aides as a trial looms for two former allies of the Republican governor.

Michael Baldassare, an attorney representing former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni, confirmed Tuesday he had subpoenaed the phones and personal electronic devices of about a half-dozen former members of Christie’s inner circle.

Baldassare had said last month he would issue the subpoenas, after U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton rejected a separate pre-trial subpoena by the defense that included a request for similar materials.

A trial subpoena has to meet a lower legal standard to succeed, Baldassare said Tuesday. He said he expects those who received a subpoena to move to quash it, though he said he hadn’t seen any motions by Tuesday afternoon.

Baldassare said he is particularly interested in discovering if text messages between Christie and former aide Regina Egea, sent during legislative testimony by Port Authority officials about the closures, were deleted before or after the announcement of a federal investigation in January 2014.

Asked if he expected to get the devices, Baldassare said, “I think if they’re not hiding anything, I’ll get them.”

Christie’s office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Baroni and former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly face charges including wire fraud and civil rights violations for allegedly creating gridlock near the bridge in 2013 to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie.

On Tuesday, Wigenton set Sept. 19 for opening arguments. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Sept. 8.

In addition to the phone subpoenas, Wigenton could have to rule before the trial on whether attorneys for Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, the firm representing the governor’s office, will be forced to comply with a defense subpoena to testify at the trial.

The firm investigated the lane closings and issued a report in early 2014 that absolved Christie and laid most of the blame on Kelly and former Port Authority official David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty.

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