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Former Christie pal pleads guilty in Bridgegate scandal, two others indicted

By Amy R. Connolly
Former Christie pal pleads guilty in Bridgegate scandal, two others indicted
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is trying to shake off the Bridgegate scandal as he mulls a presidential bid. A former ally and longtime pal, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty Friday to his role in the scandal. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEWARK, N.J., May 1 (UPI) -- A former ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to his role in causing gridlock near the George Washington Bridge for political payback.

David Wildstein, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, confirmed to a judge he played a role in the closure of two of the bridge's toll lanes in retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to endorse the Republican governor's bid for re-election.

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Wildstein, 53, admitted to conspiring with former Port Authority Deputy Director Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, to "punish" Sokolich. Wildstein pleaded guilty to knowingly misapplying property that receives federal funds and conspiracy to violate civil rights.

Wildstein said Kelly and Baroni chose the first day of school to maximize the traffic problems and to use a traffic study as a "cover story."

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Kelly and Baroni were indicted Friday on federal charges, including conspiracy and fraud.

Appearing in separate news conferences afterward, both denied the charges and called Wildstein a liar.

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Kelly and Baroni are scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

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Wildstein will be released on $10,000 bond in return for cooperation with the government. He will be sentenced Aug. 6.

The George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey to New York, is considered the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge. Christie has said he was not given advance warning the two toll lanes were being closed in September 2013.

Christie launched his own investigation, which found Wildstein personally informed the governor of the resulting traffic problems while they were underway and that Christie had no recollection of the conversation.

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The hearing came as Christie is trying to shake off the so-called Bridgegate scandal and continues to mull a bid for president.

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