According to a Bloomberg News report published on Wednesday, David Wildstein, who ordered the lane closures at the center of the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal, plans to plead guilty to unspecified criminal charges.
Wildstein, who went to high school with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), was the director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He was appointed by the governor.
Some Democrats have alleged Christie called for the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D), who declined to endorse the governor’s re-election bid that year. The shutdown led to days of gridlock in Fort Lee, which is located at the base of the bridge. The Port Authority oversees the George Washington Bridge.
Wildstein resigned from his position at the Port Authority in December 2013 as questions about the lane closures mounted. Christie has repeatedly denied having any involvement in the lane closures.
Bloomberg reported Wildstein will enter his plea on Thursday in federal court in Newark, New Jersey where grand jurors have secretly been hearing testimony about the lane closures. Wildstein’s attorney, Alan Zegas did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report from Business Insider. The office of New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last January, the a special investigative committee in the New Jersey Legislature uncovered an August 13, 2013 email exchange where Wildstein and Bridget Ann Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, discussed Fort Lee.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote to Wildstein.
“Got it,” Wildstein replied.
The committee also found emails indicating Wildstein and Kelly discussed Fort Lee again via telephone on August 30, 2013. Wildstein ordered the bridge’s general manager to close the lanes one week later and the shutdown began on September 9.
Christie fired Kelly in January 2014 after those emails emerged. In February 2014, Zegas, Wildstein’s attorney, released a letter where he claimed “evidence exists … tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures.”
Christie and his team have made several statements criticising Wildstein and Kelly. Last March, lawyers hired by the governor’s office released an internal report that found Kelly and Wildstein were the only two officials who “knowingly participated” in a scheme to target Sokolich by ordering the closures.
In spite of his denials and the fact he was exonerated by his office’s attorneys, the scandal has cast a shadow on Christie’s potential 2016 presidential campaign. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the report Wildstein plans to plead guilty.
Kelly’s lawyer, Michael Critchley, declined to comment on the report.
“I’ll await the events and respond in real time,” Critchley said.
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