Jurors hear closing arguments in Bridge-Gate case

Closing arguments began Friday in the Bridge-Gate lane-closing trial.

Federal prosecutors were the first to close the case and spoke for about three hours. Much of the government's case hinges on testimony from Bridge-Gate co-conspirator David Wildstein.

Wildstein, a former Port Authority official, took a plea deal in the scandal in exchange for testifying against defendants Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni.

Kelly and Baroni maintain that they believed the closing of Fort Lee's George Washington Bridge access lanes was part of a traffic study and not political payback for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refusing to endorse Gov. Chris Christie's 2013 re-election campaign.

Lead prosecutor Lee Cortes spent much of the trial working to discredit their testimony. In his closing statements, he said that the two defendants consider themselves to be "loyal lieutenants" of Gov. Christie and that they were willing to break the law because of it.

Cortes says that although Wildstein played the leading role in the conspiracy, he needed Kelly and Baroni to pull it off.

But Baroni's defense attorney says that Wildstein is lying. He showed the jury Wildstein's plea deal, which he says is allowing him to escape harsh punishment.

Attorney Michael Baldassare asked for a mistrial before the start of the closing arguments, because he said the prosecutor showed the jury text messages from Baroni with the wrong timestamps. He said that evidence was incorrect. The judge denied the request.

Baldassare then reiterated to the jury that Baroni believed he was participating in a traffic study and said that his client was innocent.

Kelly's attorney is expected to make his closing arguments Monday.

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