Top Chris Christie Crony Pleads Guilty for Role in Bridge Scandal, Two Others Indicted

Christie ally insists that “evidence exists” linking governor to traffic debacle.

Future-Image/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


On Friday, federal prosecutors indicted two top aides of GOP Gov. Chris Christie for their roles in orchestrating a massive traffic jam as political payback against a New Jersey mayor. Bridget Ann Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff in Christie’s office, and Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, have been charged with several counts each of conspiracy to commit fraud.

The indictments came just hours after another close Christie ally, former Port Authority official David Wildstein, pled guilty to federal charges for ordering the lane closures that caused three days of gridlock in the town of Fort Lee. The news is grim for Christie, who is preparing to make a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Wildstein’s plea and the looming indictments are a result of a 16-month federal investigation into the George Washington Bridge scandal. In September 2013, Port Authority officials shut down several access lanes in the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, setting off a mammoth traffic jam that lasted for days. Christie’s office denied involvement. But the following January, a judge released texts and emails suggesting that Christie’s inner circle masterminded the traffic debacle as political payback against Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor. The mayor, Mark Sokolich, had refused to endorse Christie for reelection earlier that year.

Wildstein has admitted to ordering the lane closures that led to the traffic jam. The Port Authority official, who went to high school with Christie, was described as the governor’s “eyes and ears” inside the agency. But after the bridge scandal burst into public view, Christie sought to distance himself from Wildstein. Wildstein resigned his Port Authority position in December.

The messages released in January revealed that Kelly and Baroni had also helped order the lane closures. The day of the traffic jam, Kelly wrote to Wildstein: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” “Got it,” Wildstein replied.

Christie has repeatedly denied having any prior knowledge of the lane closures. On Friday, Wildstein’s lawyer said that “evidence exists” which proves that Christie knew about the lane closures.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest