NEWARK - Bridge-Gate defendant Bill Baroni, the former Port Authority deputy executive director, took the stand Monday in the lane closing trial.
Baroni testified that he had no idea that the closing of Fort Lee’s George Washington Bridge access lanes was a political revenge plot. He says he believed he was assisting with an actual traffic study.
The former Port Authority official says the real Bridge-Gate mastermind is David Wildstein, who he claims executed the plan on his own. Baroni says he believed Wildstein spoke for Gov. Chris Christie.
Baroni’s testimony so far directly contradicts Wildstein's, who already pleaded guilty in the plot. Wildstein previously testified that Baroni and his co-defendant, Bridget Kelly, helped with the plan to get back at the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse Gov. Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich says he wrote and called Baroni over and over again asking for help while the lanes were closed. He told Baroni that public safety was compromised by the traffic. The calls were never returned.
Baroni says he ignored Sokolich because Wildstein told him to, as it would have messed up the traffic study.
Baroni also testified that Gov. Christie was not told about the lane closures during a Sept. 11 memorial. This contradicts what Wildstein said. Baroni says he does not remember any type of discussion about Fort Lee during the event.
Baroni and Kelly face conspiracy and fraud charges. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.