In the Bridgegate trial, the defense — in its second day of cross examination — grilled David Wildstein to reveal more about the inner workings of the governor’s office. And those alleged “goody bags” full of political favors. Cameras of course not allowed in that federal court but NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz was in the gallery. He spoke with Anchor Mary Alice Williams and Correspondent Michael Hill.
Hill: David, what happened today?
Cruz: There was more testimony today about the Port Authority “goody bag” and how the governor’s office put pressure on the Port Authority to expedite some of those goodies to prominent North Jersey Democrats.
Michael Baldassare, who represents Bill Baroni, asked David Wildstein about a grant for the Urban League of Hudson County, which Wildstein testified Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop asked the governor to approve as a way to get Sen. Sandy Cunningham to not run for mayor.
At the time, Fulop was still a councilman preparing to run for mayor.
Also on the goody bag list was Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, according to testimony.
DiVincenzo also wanted a grant for the county expedited.
Baldassare: Kevin O’Dowd called screaming at Bill [Baroni] that the approvals were taking too long.
Wildstein: I don’t recall screaming but I do remember a request … I remember him calling and saying it was taking too long.
It should be noted here that Cunningham and DiVincenzo have long-standing personal relationships with the governor and that the testimony is just that, testimony.
There was no evidence presented to support the testimony.
Fulop told us today that he had no conversations with anyone about an Urban League grant. As for Sen. Cunningham, she did not return our calls for comment.
Baldassare also attacked Wildstein’s credibility when it came to the 9/11 event in New York where he testified that they told the governor about the lane closures.
Baldassare accused Wildstein of changing his tune after talking to prosecutors.
Baldassare: You testified that [Bill Baroni] told Chris Christie about the bridge but you told prosecutors at your first meeting that you told [Christie] about the lane closures. It was only after you signed your plea and cooperation agreement [that] the story became that it was all Bill Baroni.
Wildstein: Mr. Baroni led that conversation and I was there.
As for the traffic study cover story, Baldassare produced some reports from the Port Authority’s engineering department that discussed traffic over those four days of the lane realignments.
Baldassare: Were these documents made to help you perpetuate a cover story?
Wildstein: I can’t answer why they were made.
As the day came to a close, Baldassare got Wildstein to admit that before Baroni testified in front of the Assembly Transportation Committee hearings, he took part in a conference call with several Christie administration officials — including former Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon — to go over his testimony.
Baldassare will continue his cross tomorrow, and then Bridget Kelly’s attorney, Michael Critchley, will get his shot to cross at David Wildstein.
Williams: This seems like a lot of dense testimony. Can you tell how the jury is reacting to all this?
Cruz: Yeah, Mary Alice, you know I got the chance to sit on the other side of the courtroom and look at the jury all day today. As you said it is very dense testimony and I watched some of the jury members kind of nodding out, actually one of them, and other members looking around the courtroom. Others were supporting their heads as if it was getting to be a little dense. I will say that in the morning the air conditioner wasn’t working in the courtroom and so that did not help matters much either.
Hill: The defense is really attacking Wildstein’s credibility. What are they hoping to accomplish?
Cruz: Well you know they are trying to make Wildstein look like a braggart and a blowhard, someone who tailored his testimony to fit his plea. You know the worse he looks the better it is for the defense.
Williams: OK thank you, David.