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The Latest: Bridge exec admits approving bogus news release

Posted September 21

— The Latest on the second day of testimony in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial (all times local):

3:10 p.m.

The agency that operates the George Washington Bridge sent press releases promoting a false story about traffic jams that prosecutors say were caused by two former allies of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie for political retribution.

Executive director Patrick Foye testified Wednesday that he approved the releases that said the traffic jams in Fort Lee in September 2013 were due to a traffic study. He said he knew the assertion to be untrue.

Foye's deputy executive director, Bill Baroni, is on trial with former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly. They're charged with creating traffic jams to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie.

The mayor testified he initially lied, saying he didn't think the closures were for political revenge, because he was afraid of jeopardizing a redevelopment project.

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1:35 p.m.

The head of the agency that operates the George Washington Bridge has testified that one of the defendants charged with causing gridlock for political retribution tried to persuade him to keep the traffic lanes closed.

Patrick Foye is executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

At the trial of two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, Foye said Wednesday that deputy executive director Bill Baroni asked him to reclose access lanes after Foye ordered them reopened.

Baroni and former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly are charged with creating traffic jams to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie in 2013.

Foye testified Baroni said the closures were "important to Trenton," which Foye presumed meant Christie's office.

Christie isn't charged.

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12:25 p.m.

A Democratic New Jersey mayor who prosecutors say was punished with traffic gridlock by former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie says he initially denied it was political payback because he was afraid the governor's administration would torpedo a building project in his city.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich testified Wednesday at the trial of Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly. They're charged with causing traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.

On cross-examination Wednesday, Sokolich admitted he lied in a letter to a newspaper in November 2013 when he denied earlier reports he'd been targeted for not endorsing Christie.

He testified he was concerned about a multibillion-dollar project near the bridge.

Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff. Baroni was an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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11:59 a.m.

A Democratic New Jersey mayor who prosecutors say was punished with traffic gridlock by former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie for not endorsing Christie admitted lying in a letter to a newspaper about the motive to save a building project.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich testified Wednesday at the trial of Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly. They're charged with causing traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.

On cross-examination Wednesday, Sokolich admitted he lied in the letter in November 2013 when he denied earlier reports he'd been targeted for not endorsing Christie.

He testified he was concerned about a multibillion-dollar project near the bridge.

Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff. Baroni was an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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11:24 a.m.

A Democratic New Jersey mayor who prosecutors say was punished with traffic gridlock by former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie for not endorsing Christie tells a jury he lied when he wrote to a newspaper it wasn't a case of political retaliation.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich testified Wednesday at the trial of Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly. They're charged with causing traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

On cross-examination Wednesday, Sokolich admitted he lied in a letter to the editor of the Newark Star-Ledger in November 2013 when he denied earlier reports he'd been targeted for not endorsing Christie.

Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff. Baroni was deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.

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9:55 a.m.

The Democratic New Jersey mayor who prosecutors say was targeted in a political revenge plot by former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie is back on the witness stand at their federal trial.

Defendants Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly are charged with causing traffic jams in Fort Lee near the George Washington Bridge in 2013 to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie's re-election.

Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff at the time. Baroni was deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. He was Christie's top appointee to the agency.

Sokolich testified Tuesday he was showered with attention from Christie staffers before declining to endorse Christie's re-election in late summer 2013. The traffic jams occurred several weeks later.

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