Wildstein testifies top Christie aides helped prep Bridgegate testimony

By Ted Sherman and Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 29, 2016

 NEWARK — Before Gov. Chris Christie's top appointee to the Port Authority told lawmakers the George Washington Bridge lane closures were part of a traffic study, he was prepped by the governor's one-time pick for the state Supreme Court justice and Christie's future chief of staff.

David Wildstein -- who pleaded guilty to federal crimes related to the Bridgegate scandal and testified the traffic study claim was a bogus cover -- told jurors Thursday that Phil Kwon, a former nominee for the state Supreme Court, and Regina Egea, who would later serve as the governor's top aide, helped prepare Bill Baroni for his testimony.

Baroni, the former Port Authority deputy executive director now on trial for federal crimes related to the September 2013 lane closures, told lawmakers in a November 2013 hearing that the gridlock was result of a traffic study.

That claim was later refuted by Wildstein and federal prosecutors, who charge the closures were an act of political revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid.

Before speaking to lawmakers, Baroni took part in a conference call between Port Authority officials and people Trenton, Wildstein testified in federal court in Newark.

On the Port Authority side, he said Baroni, Wildstein and Kwon took part in a conference call with Egea, her second in command, Nicole Crifo, and an unidentified "lawyer from Trenton."

At the time, Kwon served as deputy general counsel for the Port Authority and Egea was the head of the state's Authorities Unit.

Egea was later tapped to be Christie's chief of staff. Christie nominated Kwon to the state Supreme Court during his first term in office. However, his nomination was rejected by the state's Democratic-controlled Senate.

The testimony about the conference call came as Wildstein continued to be cross-examined by defense attorney Michael Baldassare, who represents Baroni and seemed intent on trying to show to the jury that the government's star witness had repeatedly changed his story and misrepresented his own significant role in the scandal.

The defense attorney has also tried to suggest that those who knew what really happened at the George Washington Bridge went much higher than just Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to the governor who is also charged in the case.

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