NEWARK, N.J.—In the first day of testimony in the Bridgegate trial, prosecutor Vikas Khanna from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said during his opening statement that Gov. Chris Christie knew about the infamous 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and that Port Authority of New York and New Jersey brass David Wildstein and Bill Baroni bragged to the governor about it.
Khanna said the lane closure came about as a way to politically punish Fort Lee, N.Y., Mayor Mark Sokolich.
Michael Baldasssare, the defense attorney for Baroni, said that a lot of his client’s issues stem from the connection to Wildstein, whom he said the governor installed there to do what he said.
Asserting Baroni’s innocence, Baldassare went through Wildstein’s long history, alluding to what he described as “the intricacy of his lies,” including a reference to Wildstein’s PolitickerNJ Wally Edge alter ego as character evidence, and the secrecy he maintained.
“Wally Edge was so successful, he hired reporters to work for him and they didn’t know who he was,” the attorney said.
Fellow Livingston High School grad Christie “knew who he was sending to the Port Authority” when he employed Wildstein.
He was “a ventriloquist dummy sitting on Christopher J. Christie’s lap,” said Baldassare, who described the supposed connection between former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Brigid Kelly and Baroni as highly overblown and noted that they rarely communicated.
Baroni didn’t call Sokolich back after the traffic jams because Wildstein told him not to, the defense attorney said.
“When David spoke, Governor Christie’s voice came out,” he said.