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The Latest: Defense attacks feds' case in bridge trial

Posted September 19

— The Latest on the George Washington Bridge trial (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

The former deputy chief of staff to Republican Gov. Chris Christie was a "minnow" compared to others who knew about or had a hand in closing access lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

That's what jurors heard Monday from Bridget Kelly's attorney during opening statements at her fraud and corruption trial.

Kelly worked for Christie in the governor's office. She and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director Bill Baroni also is on trial.

Baroni and Kelly are charged with using Port Authority property — the bridge — to cause gridlock in the town of Fort Lee for a political vendetta against the town's mayor.

Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley told jurors the government "went after a whale and caught a minnow."

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12:45 p.m.

Defense attorneys are attacking the government's chief witness at the trial of two former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie charged in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.

A jury is hearing opening statements in Newark in the trial of former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director Bill Baroni. They are accused of closing access to lanes to punish a mayor for not endorsing Christie.

Former Port Authority official David Wildstein has pleaded guilty. Prosecutors say Wildstein will testify he and Baroni "bragged" about the traffic problems to Christie during the third day of the four-day shutdown.

The Republican governor has said he didn't know about it.

Baroni's attorney says Wildstein is vindictive and a habitual liar.

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12:15 p.m.

Federal prosecutors say New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was told about the plan to close traffic lanes near the George Washington Bridge on the third day of the four-day shutdown.

In opening statements Monday, the prosecution told jurors that former Port Authority official David Wildstein would testify that he and former bridge authority executive Bill Baroni "bragged" about the traffic problems in Fort Lee and the mayor not getting his calls returned.

The prosecution says the discussion took place at a 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York in 2013. The shutdown began Sept. 9.

The Republican governor has denied knowing about the scheme and wasn't charged. Christie's office has not responded to a request for comment.

Wildstein pleaded guilty last year.

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11:05 a.m.

Federal prosecutors tell a jury in New Jersey that two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie abused their power when they closed traffic lanes near the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in an act of political revenge.

Opening statements began Monday in the trial of former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and former bridge authority executive Bill Baroni.

Prosecutors say along with former bridge authority official David Wildstein, Kelly and Baroni closed the lanes to create gridlock to punish a mayor for not endorsing Christie. Wildstein pleaded guilty last year and will testify.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna (VEE'-koss KHAN'-uh) told jurors Monday that while the lane reduction idea was Wildstein's, Kelly "instructed him to take that action and Baroni blessed it."

Christie wasn't charged.

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10 a.m.

A trial for two former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has begun three years after gridlock paralyzed a New Jersey town next to the George Washington Bridge for days.

Jurors began hearing opening statements Monday in Newark in the case against Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly.

Baroni was a top Christie appointee to the agency that operates the bridge, and Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff.

They're charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, deprivation of civil rights and fraudulently using an agency that receives federal funds. The most serious charge carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence.

They're accused of causing traffic jams near the bridge to punish a local Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie and claiming it was a traffic study. Both say they violated no laws.

The Republican governor wasn't charged.

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1 a.m.

Three years after gridlock paralyzed a New Jersey town next to the George Washington Bridge for four days, two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie are going to trial.

Jurors will hear opening statements Monday in Newark in the case against Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly.

Baroni was a top Christie appointee to the agency that operates the bridge, and Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff.

They're charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, deprivation of civil rights and fraudulently using an agency that receives federal funds. The most serious charge carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence.

They're charged with causing traffic jams near the bridge to punish a local Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie, and claiming it was a traffic study. Both say they violated no laws.

Christie wasn't charged.

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