NEWARK - A former ally of Gov. Chris Christie who pleaded guilty in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal testified Tuesday that he told the governor about the traffic jam while it was underway and that Christie appeared happy about it.
Ex-Port Authority official David Wildstein testified Tuesday that the governor knew that Wildstein and defendant Bill Baroni were working to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse the governor’s 2013 re-election campaign. Wildstein testified that he spoke to Christie on the third day of the lane closures at a Sept. 11 memorial in Manhattan.
Wildstein also testified that Baroni told the governor that there was a "tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee” and that the mayor was “frustrated he wasn't getting his phone calls returned." He says the governor said, “Well I imagine he wouldn't be getting his phone calls returned."
Wildstein said the conversation had a sarcastic tone typical of the governor. Baroni went on to tell Christie that Wildstein was "monitoring" the traffic.
According to Wildstein’s testimony, Christie then told him and another official to ignore the mayors of Fort Lee and Jersey City and that the Port Authority was not to talk to them because both had declined to endorse him.
Wildstein testified that after the conversation with the governor, he told others not to be nervous about keeping the lanes closed because it was what the governor wanted.
Wildstein's account was the first testimony to suggest that Christie knew about the plot while it was unfolding.
The governor denied any involvement in the plot at an event at the State House Tuesday.
“I have not and will not say anything different than I have been saying since January 2014, no matter what is said up there,” Christie said. “I had no knowledge prior to, or during these lane realignments. I had no role in authorizing it, I had no knowledge of it, and there has been no evidence ever put forward that I did.”
Michael Critchley, defense attorney for the second defendant Bridget Kelly, says the defense will be better able to evaluate Wildstein’s testimony after cross-examination.
“Right now you have one side,” he says.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.