Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Kelly, Baroni File for Dismissal of Charges

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Kelly, Baroni File for Dismissal of Charges

Article excerpt

Two former associates of Governor Christie may have behaved badly by allegedly closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in an act of political retribution, but they didn't break any laws, say their attorneys, who filed papers this week to have the federal charges dismissed.

Lawyers for Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Christie, and Bill Baroni, a former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, say prosecutors stretched and twisted federal laws to create a high-profile case, now due to go to trial in May.

The pair are accused of closing two of three local access lanes to the bridge for five mornings in September 2013 to punish Fort Lee's mayor for not endorsing Christie's reelection bid that year. The closures, which were initially described as part of a traffic study, caused widespread traffic jams in the town and the resulting scandal continues to undermine Christie's presidential campaign.

Kelly and Baroni were charged with misusing Port Authority property, fraud and depriving Fort Lee residents of their constitutional right to travel freely. A third person, former Port Authority employee David Wildstein, pleaded guilty to the charges last year and is cooperating with the investigation.

Lawyers for the pair say that even if the alleged political conspiracy is true, there is no law against causing a traffic jam.

"It appears the government yielded to the intense media scrutiny and public pressure and, rather than concede that the conduct alleged does not violate any clearly established federal law, invented federal crimes," Kelly's lawyer, Michael Critchley, argued in papers submitted to U.S. District Court in Newark on Monday night.

Critchley said that Kelly, who sent a now infamous email in August 2013 to Wildstein -- "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" -- cannot be prosecuted because her actions did not even violate Port Authority policies, let alone federal laws. …

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