Bridgegate trial: Kelly will have her say in court today
After three years of virtual silence since sending the infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email, Bridget Anne Kelly is about to have her say in court.
The former deputy chief of staff to Governor Christie is expected to take the witness stand in Newark federal court today, where she and former Port Authority Executive Director Bill Baroni are fighting nine counts against them in the September 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Federal prosecutors say Kelly and Baroni conspired with David Wildstein, a former agency executive, to reduce access to the bridge as punishment to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie’s re-election that year.
The closures, prosecutors say, began with that email sent by Kelly in Augusts 2013. Wildstein replied to her, “got it.”
Nothing has been the same since. Not only were Kelly and Baroni charged – Wildstein pleaded guilty to his role – but the scandal has dogged Christie and played some part in his failed attempt to win the Republican nomination for president this election cycle.
Christie has not been charged and has denied having any knowledge or involvement in the lane closures. But defense attorneys for Kelly and Baroni are making the case that the two were caught in a large conspiracy reaching to the highest ranks of the governor’s office – including Christie himself. Kelly, 44, was a scapegoat and it is “absurd” to think she was making such consequential calls, her top attorney, Michael Critchley has said.
“They wanted to throw her in some sense under the presidential bus,” Critchley said at the opening of the trial last month.
Critchley has spet the week trying to poke holes in the testimony of the people closest to Christie. He called adviser Mie DuHaime to the witness stand Thusday and his former top spokesman, Michael Drewniak, the day before. Both denied key details of Wildstein’s testimony, creating alternative narratives for the jury to consider.
Critchley also worked Thursday to soften Kelly’s image by calling three people close to her to testify. They described her as a hard-working, honest mother of four.
Patricia Molloy, principal of Washington’s Immaculate Heart Academy, where Kelly attended high school, said she has known Kelly her whole life and considers her a “surrogate niece.”
“I never had an experience where Bridget was not completely honest and truthful,” Molloy said, calling her a “straightforward, kind of all-American girl.”
Before Kelly takes the stand, Critchley is expected continue questioning Mike DuHaime, a close Christie adviser. DuHaime must also be cross-examined by the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case against Kelly and Baroni. And Critchley may call other witnesses if he chooses.