At the Bridgegate trial, it’s the defenses’ turn. The government has rested its case. Cameras are not allowed in federal courtrooms but NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron was there.
Aron: Government prosecutors used their most damning evidence against Bill Baroni today — his own words.
They also introduced damaging evidence against Bridget Kelly, the other Bridgegate defendant, suggesting she deleted a raft of incriminating emails.
In Baroni’s case, they played for the jury the entire videotape of Baroni testifying before the Assembly Transportation Committee three years ago.
That’s where Baroni tried to sell what has been labeled by alleged accomplice David Wildstein as the cover story.
Instead of closing the lanes at the George Washington Bridge for political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee — as by this point the press, Democrats and others suspected — Baroni tried to convince lawmakers that the lane realignment had be part of a traffic study.
His testimony that day was that having three access lanes from Fort Lee onto the bridge gave local drivers an unfair advantage over those using the main highways onto the other nine lanes:
Baroni: This goes to the question of, is it — is, not determined, but is it — fair that one community with 4.5 percent of the users has direct lanes into the bridge where every other community, with the exception — Assemblyman Amedeo, forgive me — every one of you, every one of you on this committee has people in your communities who sit in longer traffic every day because of the special lanes for Fort Lee. Now that is a policy question. It may be something this committee thinks is a good idea, but I got to tell you, I wouldn’t be doing my job in the Port Authority if we didn’t at least ask the question. And yes, it’s been there for a long time, but how do you not ask the question of is it fair that 95 percent of users have to sit in longer traffic for one town? We don’t do it anywhere else.
Aron: Five TV monitors are set up in that courtroom and this was Baroni’s introduction to the jurors.
The tape lasted an hour and 15 minutes.
Baroni sat at the defense table watching his monitor intently.
Earlier, a Port Authority Police union official testified that as he listened to Baroni’s testimony on a live stream that day he said to his union president that Baroni was “full of it”, except he didn’t use “it”.
As for Bridget Kelly, the government’s final witness was an FBI agent named Michelle Pickels, an accounting specialist.
She examined three years’ worth of Kelly’s emails and found only outgoing emails to David Wildstein on certain key dates, none incoming.
The implication was that Kelly had deleted dozens of emails from Wildstein.
And the defense called its first witness this afternoon — Gov. Christie’s former chief counsel Charlie McKenna — on behalf of Bill Baroni.