NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday portrayed a defendant in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal as an attack dog for Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rather than someone just following orders.
Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni testified Monday he was hoodwinked by colleague David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty in the political revenge scheme. Baroni maintained he believed the closures on the busy bridge between New Jersey and New York in 2013 were part of a traffic study.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes on Tuesday asked Baroni about times he had acted as Christie’s attack dog, including cursing out the head of the state firefighters’ union on orders from the governor.
Cortes also asked about attacks on the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg at a congressional hearing on Port Authority toll hikes where Baroni held up Lautenberg’s E-ZPass and told of the free trips he had received.
Baroni and former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly are charged with misusing Port Authority property, fraud and civil rights offenses. The bridge, one of the busiest in the country if not the world, connects New Jersey to New York over the Hudson River.
Baroni testified Monday that Wildstein told him about the lane realignment plan on Sept. 8, the day before it was put into effect. He said Wildstein told him if he answered Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s pleas for help it would mean he was “wimping out” and would ruin the traffic study.
Baroni testified that he was not close with Wildstein, but prosecutors on Tuesday said that they had talked 2,767 times on the phone in 2013 alone. They also showed a picture of Baroni hoisting Wildstein into the air in a chair at Wildstein’s son’s bar mitzvah.