Defense Paints Kelly as Hapless, Prosecutors Paint Her as Ruthless

WNYC | October 25, 2016 | Politics
Competing versions of defendant Bridget Kelly’s role in the Bridgegate scandal are put to the court

Bridget Kelly, one of two defendants in the Bridgegate trial, was just trying to get by in the orbit of a potent governor and the other powerful men around him. Far from having autonomy, she needed “permission” to carry out actions. Such was the picture the defense tried to paint in the first two days of testimony by Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Chris Christie.

In her third day on the witness stand, Kelly testified Tuesday that she did not have “the kind of power, or anything like that” that would have allowed her to order the September 2013 closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee; he had declined to endorse Christie for reelection.

Author of the infamous email at the heart of Bridgegate —“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — Kelly testified that she even got the governor’s permission to send the message.

But prosecutors tried to portray Kelly as a less than hapless figure in Christie’s circle. She was, they said, head of a unit charged with stacking up endorsements of the Republican governor by Democratic mayors. They suggested she knew full well the meaning of phrases such as “radio silence,” as used by Bridgegate star witness David Wildstein; earlier in the trial Wildstein testified it meant freezing out mayors and other recalcitrants.

The prosecution raised another Kelly email. “Is it wrong that I am smiling?” she wrote to Wildstein, after being informed Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was begging for help to resolve the chaos in his town caused by the lane closures. Wildstein replied that children stuck in traffic “are the children of Buono voters,” referring to Christie’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race.

Kelly: “I know it’s been portrayed to be about whatever everyone else wants it to be.” But, she maintained: “I was not smiling about the kids being late to school.”

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