Bridgegate Day 15: Another Bombshell, Another Lie to The Press, And Some More Cursing
The Bombshell: In the middle of a cross-examination at Tuesday's Bridgegate trial, defense attorney Michael Critchley made a startling suggestion. Critchley represents defendant Bridget Anne Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff to the governor. Critchley asked the witness for the prosecution, former Port Authority deputy executive director Deborah Gramiccioni, if she knew that Kelly and Gov. Chris Christie "had discussions about the lane closures before they occurred." He added that Christie and Kelly had also talked about the lane closures while the lanes were closed.
Gramiccioni said she had no knowledge of the assertion. It was not backed up by evidence and may never come up again at trial. This was merely a question put to a witness.
But it could indicate that Kelly, when she testifies in her own defense, may blame the whole Bridgegate affair on the governor himself. Because Critchley wasn't done. He added one more question for Gramiccioni: Did you have lunch with Kelly and Christie on Aug. 13? Gramiccioni remembered the lunch, but not the exact date. That date is significant — it’s the very day that Kelly wrote the smoking gun "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email.
Christie, of course, has denied having any knowledge of the scheme until months afterward.
The Curses: As detailed in today’s Christie Tracker Podcast, the trial has featured a colorful array of curse words. Tuesday’s offerings:
- Officer Paul Nunziato, the head of the Port Authority police union, testified against the defense on behalf of the prosecution. When cross-examined by an attorney for Baroni, he was asked about Nunziato having once arrested a man masturbating in a bathroom at the World Trade Center. During the arrest, Nunziato allegedly screamed at the man and called him a "queer" and a "faggot." Nunziato appeared to deny the charge — “I might have told him to wash his hands" before cuffing him, he said — but the judge ended that line of questioning after objections from the prosecution. It was unclear why the incident was raised by the defense, though it appeared to be an attempt to call into question Nunziato's integrity.
- Co-defendant Bill Baroni testified before the New Jersey Legislature in 2013 that the idea for closing lanes to the bridge and conducting a so-called "traffic study" was an idea that came after talks with a Port Authority police officer, Mike DeFilippis. That police officer took the stand and testified to how he reacted when he watched Baroni pin the idea on him three years ago: "He’s full of sh-t!" Nunziato was with DeFilippis at the time. Nunziato testified that he remembered that moment differently: "He jumped out of his chair and called Mr. Baroni a 'f---ing liar.'"
The Lies: David Wildstein, the prosecution's star witness who pleaded guilty to the crime, has implicated a range of people in both the scheme and the cover-up. But the lies to the public through the press have perhaps been most eye-opening. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich previously testified that he lied in a letter to the editor when he said there was nothing retaliatory about the lane closures. And Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, testified that he agreed to put out a statement about the traffic study cover story that he knew to be false. On Tuesday, Nunziato said he, too, released a bogus press release in which the Port Authority police union described the traffic jam as the result of a poorly-communicated traffic study. He did it because he "didn’t want retaliation" from Baroni and Wildstein, he said, and wanted to "protect" his members. Nunziato also claimed that, at the time, he still believed that the "traffic study" defense was truthful.