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The Latest: Bridge defendant describes 'cover story'

October 17, 2016 - 12:47 PM

NEWARK, N.J. - The Latest on the fifth week of testimony in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

A defendant in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial says people at the upper levels of New Jersey state government and the authority that runs the bridge knew about or had a hand creating what prosecutors say was a false narrative that traffic jams at the bridge were caused by a traffic study.

Prosecutors contend former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni lied when he told a state legislative committee the September 2013 traffic jams were the result of a traffic study rather than a political revenge.

Baroni and a former staffer to Republican Gov. Chris Christie are charged with causing gridlock to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie. He testified he believed the jams were caused by a legitimate traffic study.

Baroni testified Monday people who were aware of his impending testimony or prepared him and provided materials included the Port Authority's chairman and Christie's chief attorney.

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11:20 a.m.

A defendant in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial says Republican Gov. Chris Christie wasn't told about an alleged political revenge plot using traffic jams.

Bill Baroni, a former executive with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is on the witness stand Monday.

He told jurors Christie was told of traffic jams in Fort Lee during a Sept. 11 memorial event at the World Trade Center in 2013. But he says there was no mention of political retaliation against the town's mayor.

That contradicts earlier testimony by former Port Authority official David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty and testified Christie was told that Fort Lee's mayor's calls weren't being returned.

Baroni and another former Christie aide are charged with fraud, conspiracy and other offences.

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9:55 a.m.

Jurors in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial are hearing from one of the defendants.

Bill Baroni, a former executive with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is testifying Monday. He and Bridget Kelly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former deputy chief of staff, are in the fifth week of their fraud and conspiracy trial.

They face up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charge.

They're alleged to have concocted the lane closures to create traffic gridlock to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie, a Republican, in 2013.

Both defendants contend David Wildstein, a former subordinate of Baroni's at the Port Authority, conceived and carried out the scheme. Wildstein has pleaded guilty and has already testified at the trial.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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