Christie’s Phone, a Missing Piece in the Bridge Case, Is Found

NEWARK — After weeks of shrugs and head-scratching, one of the more perplexing mysteries of the investigation into the infamous traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge has been solved: Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyer has the governor’s cellphone.

The whereabouts of Mr. Christie’s cellphone had been the subject of much deliberation as lawyers prepared for the Sept. 12 trial of two of Mr. Christie’s former allies for their roles in an alleged scheme to tie up traffic at the bridge. Mr. Christie has said that he turned the phone over to lawyers who conducted an internal investigation into the plot and that he never got it back.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Newark quashed the efforts of lawyers for the defendants to obtain the phone or its contents. The hearing, before Judge Susan D. Wigenton of United States District Court, lasted more than two hours and shed no light on who had the phone, leaving defense lawyers scrambling to locate it.

Michael Baldassare, a lawyer defending Bill Baroni, a former executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said he believed the phone might contain clues about the involvement of others in the scheme. One of Mr. Baroni’s associates at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty to conspiring to tie up traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., to punish that town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Mr. Christie, a Republican, for re-election in 2013.

The only other people who have been charged in connection with the scheme are Mr. Baroni — whom Mr. Christie had appointed to a top executive position at the Port Authority — and Bridget Anne Kelly, who was one of the governor’s aides in Trenton.

“The harder they fight to not let us see it, the more I think is on it,” Mr. Baldassare said after the hearing, referring to Mr. Christie’s phone. “I think it’s more likely I will be dead of old age before anybody willingly lets me see the governor’s cellphone.”

Mr. Baldassare said he would issue subpoenas to the governor’s personal lawyers and some of his former aides, demanding that they produce their cellphones at trial. Christopher Wray, a partner at King & Spalding and a former federal prosecutor, has represented Mr. Christie in the case.

A spokesman for the governor replied “yes” when asked on Thursday evening if Mr. Wray had the cellphone. Mr. Wray did not respond to requests for confirmation.

The riddle of what had become of Mr. Christie’s phone swirled just as supporters of Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, awaited his decision on a running mate. Mr. Christie is believed to be on a short list of candidates whom Mr. Trump is considering.

Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly attended the hearing on Thursday, but neither spoke. They sat quietly while several lawyers argued about subpoenas seeking cellphones and other devices that belonged to the governor and his aides.

The governor’s office was represented by lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the firm that Mr. Christie hired to conduct the internal investigation. That investigation cleared Mr. Christie of any involvement in the scheme.

Mr. Christie has repeatedly said that he did not know about the scheme until after traffic had been tied up for days early in September 2013. The governor’s office did not respond on Thursday to requests for comment.

Randy M. Mastro, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, told the judge that his firm had commissioned a forensic analysis of the governor’s phone and provided all relevant evidence to federal prosecutors and to defense lawyers. He did not shed any light on the phone’s whereabouts.

Mr. Baldassare said he wanted to know more about texts that Mr. Christie exchanged with his former chief of staff, Regina Egea, in December 2013. Ms. Egea said she deleted those texts as part of routine maintenance of her phone.

She and the governor were texting each other while employees of the Port Authority were testifying about the traffic jams before state lawmakers in Trenton. Mr. Baldassare said he wanted to know what was said in those texts and when they were deleted.

Judge Wigenton denied the defense’s attempt to get the phone or its contents. She said she had not been persuaded that there was anything on it that would be relevant or admissible at trial.

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