Ex-Christie Allies Plead Not Guilty In Bridge Case

NEWARK (AP) -
Bill Baroni, Gov. Chris Christie’s former top appointee at the Port Authority, acknowledges the media as he arrives for a hearing Monday in Newark. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Bill Baroni, Gov. Chris Christie’s former top appointee at the Port Authority, acknowledges the media as he arrives for a hearing Monday in Newark. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Two former political allies of Gov. Chris Christie pleaded not guilty Monday to charges they were involved in politically motivated lane closures of the George Washington Bridge, and the attorney for one vowed to subpoena her former colleagues to prove her innocence.

Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his former top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, entered the pleas through their attorneys in the nine-count indictment unsealed Friday after a yearlong investigation.

Christie has not been implicated in the criminal case, but Kelly’s attorney, Michael Critchley, didn’t rule out serving a subpoena on the governor.

“I am going to subpoena anybody who I feel is necessary to establish my client’s innocence,” Critchley said after Monday’s brief proceeding. “That could include anybody.”

On Friday, Kelly told reporters that it was “ludicrous” for the indictment to suggest that she was the only person in Christie’s office aware of the issue.

David Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie and later became a top official in the Port Authority, pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal counts. He said that he helped plot lane closures in Fort Lee as political payback against that community’s Democratic mayor for failing to support Christie’s re-election campaign.

He implicated Kelly and Baroni, the then-deputy executive director of the Port Authority, who were named in a nine-count indictment.

In his first public words in more than a year Monday, Baroni denied the charges and said he would testify in court.

“I would never risk my career, my job and my reputation for something like this,” Baroni said. “I am an innocent man.”

Bail for both was set at $150,000, and U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton set a tentative trial date of July 7.

The charges provide mixed news for Christie as he tries to regain momentum in support of an expected presidential bid.

Christie appears to have been cleared of any allegations that he personally participated in the scheme, but the charges still hit close to home.

A Monmouth poll released on Monday found that half of New Jersayans believe Christie was personally involved in the decision to close the toll lanes and 69 percent don’t believe he’s been completely honest.

In many ways, the outcome was the best Christie could have hoped for — little new information and no names mentioned beyond those Christie had already cut ties to.