Bridgegate Plotter Tells Court He’s Reformed

     NEWARK, N.J. (CN) — Defense attorneys took their final stabs at witness credibility Wednesday as the man who admittedly orchestrated four days of New Jersey gridlock in 2013 wrapped up his eighth day of testimony.
     David Wildstein faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty last year to abusing the public office in which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had him installed.
     Using his position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in September 2013, Wildstein coordinated the shutdown of two lanes of traffic connecting Democratic-run Fort Lee to the busy George Washington Bridge.
     Testifying against the two former Christie allies charged with co-conspiring on the plot, and its cover-up, Wildstein has been reminded at length about the long line of dirty tricks in his political career that culminated with the lane closures. Along the way, Wildstein has dragged the names of various other officials in the mud – most recently Tuesday implicating New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the cover-up.
     Wildstein voiced remorse Wednesday as he faced his final questions of the trial from attorneys for the defendants, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, and Bill Baroni, a former Republican politician whom Christie appointed as deputy executive director of the Port Authority.
     “Over the last three years, I’ve done a lot of reflection,” Wildstein said. “It is never OK to lie.”
     The pronouncement came after Wildstein admitted that he was reluctant to take full blame for the bridge plot when pressure against him mounted.
     In late 2013, after Wildstein had been asked to resign from the Port Authority, he said Port Authority police union president Paul Nunziato offered to take responsibility for coming up with the idea of the lane closures.
     Wildstein initially said no, that there was no need for them both to go down.
     But Wildstein reconsidered later, he admitted. He said he told Nunziato to consider taking blame if asked by a reporter, though not to say such a thing to a lawmaker or authorities.
     Asked why he changed his mind, Wildstein told the court today that he had been feeling sorry for himself.
     Baroni’s attorney emphasized this as an example of Wildstein’s self-serving interests.
     “It was really all about you and how you felt that day right?” attorney Michael Baldassare asked.
     Michael Critchley, the attorney for Kelly, picked at this moment as well.
     “Sometimes you lie when you’re not in a good place,” the attorney said. “Sometime in the near future you’re not going to be in a good place”
     The remark was aimed at reminding jurors of Wildstein’s future sentencing, for which he could receive leniency because of his testimony in this trial.
     Wildstein replied that his cooperation agreement with prosecutors requires him to tell the truth.
     Investigation into the bridge plot over the years helped sink Christie’s presidential bid, but the current surrogate for Donald Trump denies any knowledge of the plot.
     Wildstein contradicted Christie’s innocence on last week, however, insisting that Baroni told Christie about Fort Lee’s traffic problems on the third day of the lane closures. In support of this claim, prosecutors introduced photographs of the trio from that day touring 9/11 memorial site.
     Joining the governors of New York and New Jersey on the tread marks of Wildstein’s testimony are Bill Stepien and Mike DuHaime, both of whom now work with Trump’s presidential campaign.     
     Wildstein has also implicated Port Authority officials David Sampson, William Schuber and Pat Foye, the latter of whom also testified during the case.
     Christie’s former chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, is among those Wildstein also says knew about and covered up the scandal.
     In the wake of Wildstein’s testimony Tuesday, Cuomo’s spokesperson urged the public to take the words of a “felon” like Wildstein with a grain of salt.
     Cuomo on Wednesday told the New York Observer that he “would have to go back” and review how it was he came to learn about the 2013 lane closures.
     Governor Andrew Cuomo was indirectly named yesterday by Wildstein, who said the Democratic governor worked with Christie to hush up the scandal after the fact. Cuomo’s spokesperson has denied this and called Wildstein a “felon.”
     After the court excused Wildstein from the stand today, prosecutors called Christopher Stark, who served alongside Kelly in Christie’s now-defunct Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
     Stark had sent a memo in the summer of 2013 that called it unlikely for Christie to expect an endorsement from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich — the future target of the lane closures.
     In that memo, Stark also made note of Sokolich’s important real estate project near the George Washington Bridge.

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