What to Know
- The prosecution rested last week; former Port Authority official David Wildstein was the star witness
- Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly, the defendants in the case, say Wildstein conceived and carried out the scheme
- Baroni and Kelly face 20 years in prison on the most serious charge
The former aide to Chris Christie who prosecutors say sent the "time for some traffic problems" email that started the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal said Friday that she knew only of a planned traffic study, not an alleged political retribution plot, and described the Republican governor as a bully who once threw a water bottle at her in a fit of rage.
Bridget Kelly testified in federal court in Newark that she told Christie that the lanes would be closed as part of a traffic study in Fort Lee a month before the plan was implemented.
Kelly, then Christie's deputy chief of staff, said she remembered the conversation because of the email she got Aug. 12, 2013, from David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official and self-described mastermind of the plot, that prompted it. In the email, Wildstein wrote, "I have an issue to discuss with you, extraordinarily weird even by my standards," Kelly said.
She said Wildstein then told her over the phone that he needed to do a traffic study that involved shutting down the access lanes to the bridge in Fort Lee and he wanted her to run the proposal by Christie.
According to Kelly, Wildstein told her he wanted to use the traffic study as a pedestal to prop up Christie for improving congestion at the bridge. She said she brought the proposed study to Christie, and the governor said OK.
On Aug. 13, 2013, Kelly sent the notorious "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email to Wildstein. She testified she sent it because the governor said he was fine with the traffic study, so she wanted to tell Wildstein to move forward with the planned access lane closures. Kelly said there was so much going on that month that the closures weren't a big deal and she fired off the email in a rush.
"I was scared if I didn't tell him (Wildstein) I would get blamed for something I didn't do. It would be my fault," Kelly said.
In the midst of the lane closures in September and a month after she says she first told the governor about the looming study, Kelly testified she told Christie Fort Lee's mayor said the study was causing a safety problem in his borough. Christie said the Port Authority was handling it, according to Kelly.
Wildstein has already pleaded guilty in the case and is the government's key witness. In his testimony earlier in the trial, he said Christie knew "all about" the lane closings.
Christie has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
Separate from the lane closures, Kelly testified that Christie bullied her. She broke down in tears twice on the stand Friday describing Christie's reaction to a roundtable she set up in the aftermath of a fire in Seaside Heights.
"He had a water bottle in his hand, and he said, 'What do you think I am, a f**king game show host?' And he threw the water bottle and I moved out of the way," Kelly said.
Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley was asked about the abuse his client testified to after court Friday.
"I'm surprised that people are surprised by this testimony when you heard what other people have testified to," Critchley said.
Regarding her testimony, which marked her first public comments on the case since the scandal broke three years ago, Critchley said, "Finally she had an opportunity to impartially tell her story and will continue on Monday."
Bill Baroni, Kelly's co-defendant in the case and the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, testified earlier this week. He pinned the entire scam on Wildstein. He and Kelly both face conspiracy and fraud charges in the case. They face 20 years in prison if convicted of the top count.