NEWARK, N.J. (CN) — As a jury deliberates whether two former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conspired on a political-retribution plot, an attorney for the defense moved Thursday for a mistrial.
With the filing by Michael Baldassare wholly redacted, the rationale for it remains unclear. Baldassare represents Bill Baroni Jr., one of two people on trial for the massive traffic jam that erupted when the George Washington Bridge lost two access lanes in New Jersey for four days in September 2013.
Baroni had been Christie's top appointee to the public agency that runs the bridge, which connects New Jersey to New York City from the small cliff-side community of Fort Lee.
Just ahead of the lane closures, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich declined to endorse the Republican Christie's gubernatorial re-election.
David Wildstein, another Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has already admitted as part of a guilty plea that he conspired with other Christie allies to punish the Democratic Soklolich by stirring up traffic in Fort Lee.
Along with Baroni, Wildstein claims to have conspired on the plot with Bridget Anne Kelly. Back in 2013, Kelly had been a deputy chief of staff in Christie's office.
Jurors began deliberating Baroni and Kelly's fate Monday afternoon, but activity from the attorneys has continued in a quiet flurry at the Newark federal courthouse.
The mood is growing perceptibly tenser as deliberations drag on, with the hall outside U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton's court taking on the anxiety of the train-station scene in "The Untouchables."
As is starting to become a tradition, defense lawyers and prosecutors marched into the court Thursday morning — causing reporters to hurriedly line up for access — only to march back out quickly without giving explanation as to what had transpired behind closed doors.
Again, neither defense attorneys nor prosecutors would discuss the activity of the closed-door meeting. Amid similar activity Wednesday, a marshal assigned to the courtroom threatened to eject several reporters who were milling around the closed courtroom door.
Defense attorney Michael Critchley noted in a scrum with reporters Thursday that he doesn't make the rules. Baldassare made a similar excuse. "As an attorney, I have to be really careful" in addressing the secret proceedings, he said.
Prosecutors left the area quickly, not answering any questions, and have not returned since.
Among those opposing the heavy secrecy is Bruce Rosen, an attorney who represented media outlets earlier this year in the failed attempt to access the government's secret list of unindicted co-conspirators in the case.
Rosen moved to unseal the sealed transcripts and unredact the redacted documents.
"It is essential to public confidence in the integrity of the judicial system that the public be able to fully understand and discuss the issues at stake as to conduct of this trial," Rosen's filing states.
Judge Wigenton ruled later Thursday to keep the documents and transcripts under wraps.
As for the redacted Baldassare motion seeking a mistrial, none of the attorneys in the case addressed if or when they will get to argue their case.
At least one thorny legal issue was resolved, however, as Judge Wigenton denied a motion for reconsideration by Kelly's attorney concerning a jury instruction.