Showing posts with label Bridges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bridges. Show all posts

June 19, 2017

New FBI Director Billed NJTax Payers $2 Mil to Get Christie Off The Bridge-Hook











President Trump's pick to be the next FBI director, Christopher Wray, billed New Jersey taxpayers more than $2.1 million in legal charges and expenses while representing Gov. Chris Christie as his personal attorney before during and after the Bridgegate trial.

It is unclear what Wray and an extensive team from his firm, King & Spalding LLP, was doing for Christie — the bills provided to WNYC from the state Attorney General's Office are heavily redacted, and Wray has never spoken publicly about his role. Christie was never charged by federal prosecutors in the lane-closing scandal, and he has long maintained his innocence while refraining from getting into details about how the conspiracy took hold within his administration.

The public did not even know that Wray was working for the governor until nearly two years into his work when Christie's spokesman said a cell phone that the governor used during Bridgegate was in Wray's possession. Two former Christie aides who were indicted and ultimately convicted had unsuccessfully sought to subpoena the phone to use as part of their defense.

Instead of Wray, it was Christie's other lawyer, Randy Mastro of the Gibson Dunn firm, who was the public face of the defense as the lead attorney for the governor's office. Mastro's bill for legal and digital forensics work amounted to more than $11 million. Since the public is also responsible for paying for the lawyers of other government employees who were not convicted, plus the legal staff of the Democratic legislature's investigative committee, Bridgegate legal bills now exceed $15 million. 

But while Mastro's legal bills faced scrutiny from the media and Democrats in New Jersey, Wray was quietly expensing taxi fare, parking, meals and even plane trips — 10 of them, totaling more than $14,000. He also billed $340 an hour.

Legal work ramped up during the Bridgegate trial last fall, reaching about $300,000. Christie was never called to testify, and his team did not submit legal briefs to the court.

But Wray continued to bill the state, charging $1,963.40 for a plane flight after the trial ended and for legal expenses until at least April 25, a month after defendants Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni were sentenced to 18 months and two years in prison, respectively. Both are appealing, and a third conspirator, David Wildstein, is awaiting a sentencing next month.

Wray's role as Christie's attorney has been shrouded in secrecy. When Christie's spokesman Brian Murray revealed Wray's identity last summer, Murray refused to say whether taxpayers were paying his bills. After Trump announced Wray as his pick to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, The Asbury Park Press reported that taxpayers were paying for Wray. That prompted WNYC to file a public records request to the Attorney General's Office seeking the bills, which by law are supposed to be provided immediately. The documents were instead provided more than a week later, after 11 p.m. last Friday. 

Wray, Mastro and their respective colleagues are not Christie's only Bridgegate attorneys. Craig Carpenito was paid $150-an-hour by taxpayers to defend Christie from a related criminal complaint; Carpenito is now reportedly Christie's recommended pick to be Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. Christie also counted on publicly-funded legal counsel in the Bridgegate aftermath from Chris Porrino, who was then the governor's counsel and is now the state's Attorney General. 

Christie hasn't said whether he recommended Wray for the FBI job. But Christie remains close with the president and he has publicly endorsed the pick, saying he and Wray worked together when Christie was U.S. Attorney and Wray was an official at the Justice Department. And, Christie said, "when I had to retain legal counsel during a very, very troubling, confusing, difficult time for me, I made one phone call, and that was to Chris Wray."

wnyc.org

 
 In spanish there is a saying in honor of social Saturdays'A cada puerco le llega Sū Sabādo (to every pig a Saturday is set aside to be eaten).




March 29, 2017

Christie Allies Sentenced Today NJ Courtroom








Former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were sentenced to short prison terms Wednesday for engineering lane closures at the George Washington Bridge as alleged retaliation against a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse the governor. 
[They said they informed the Governor of their actions but the Governor denies it]
Bill Baroni, who served as deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will spend two years behind bars and must do 500 hours of community service. His conspirator Bridget Anne Kelly was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus a year of probation. 
"I regret more than anything that I allowed myself to get caught up in this," Baroni told U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton. “I failed."
His defense lawyers argued for leniency, noting his longtime work as an FBI informant when he was a state lawmaker.  
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes responded that Baroni should have known better, and should have gone to authorities when he learned of the plot, but instead tried to cover it up. 
Baroni "corrupted his office to send a petty, vindictive political message," Cortes said. He called Baroni's behavior "out of the playbook of some dictator in a banana republic." 
Before imposing the sentence, Wigenton told Baroni, "This is a sad day for the state of New Jersey, and in particular for you." 
She added: "You have lived a life of service...that makes the offense that much more perplexing." 
Wednesday's courtroom appearances will bring a likely end to the more than three-year-old scandal known as Bridgegate, which brought down members of Christie's inner circle and damaged his attempt to run for president. Witnesses at a fall trial alleged Christie knew about the plan beforehand. But Christie was never charged, and he maintains that he knew nothing about it until after it broke as a news story. 
Kelly, author of the now-infamous email that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," and Baroni were seeking probation. 
They will have time to appeal their sentences.  
Another Christie operative, David Wildstein, has admitted to cooking up the plot and testified that Kelly and Baroni helped him carry it out. He has alleged that he and Baroni spoke to Christie about the closures as they were happening. Wildstein, who cooperated with the feds as part of a plea deal, has not yet been sentenced. 
Baroni and Kelly have said they believed the lane closures were for a traffic study and not a political retribution plot. 
Image: Bridget KellyThe scandal stems from the September 2013 lane closures in Fort Lee, on the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, and where a Democrat, Mark Sokolich, was mayor. Christie was running for re-election that year on a platform as a bipartisan consensus-builder, and was aggressively seeking Democratic endorsements. Sokolich was a holdout. 




Bridget Kelly arrives for sentencing at federal court in Newark, New Jersey, on March 29. Seth Wenig / AP

That August, Kelly emailed Wildstein calling for "traffic problems." He replied, "Got it." Later emails captured them discussing the closures. which began Sept. 9. and caused massive jams on Fort Lee roads. 
The lanes were reopened on Sept. 13, and the Port Authority said publicly that the closures were part of a traffic study, which turned out to be false. 
Kelly and Baroni were convicted on Nov. 4 of conspiracy, wire fraud and other charges. 
Prosecutors asked for three to four years for each, accusing them in a court filing this week of lying during their trial last fall.

by   and 

October 25, 2016

Top Adviser Testifies Christie Knew about GWB Havoc Ahead of Time






Republican Gov. Chris Christie was told during the George Washington Bridge lane closures that a Democratic mayor expressed concern that the resulting traffic jams in his city were political retribution, a former aide to the governor testified Monday.
Ex-aide Bridget Anne Kelly testified in her criminal trial that she told Christie about Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's concerns and Christie told her it was a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey project and to "let Wildstein handle it," referring to David Wildstein. Wildstein, an executive at the Port Authority, pleaded guilty to his role in a scheme to punish Sokolich for not endorsing the governor's re-election effort.
"I said, 'He's talking about government retribution,'" Kelly testified. "(Christie) said, 'It's a Port Authority project. Let Wildstein handle it.'"
Christie has consistently denied any knowledge of the plot or the lane closures while they were going on and has not been charged.
Kelly maintains she believed the September 2013 lane closures were part of a traffic study, but she testified Monday that she became confused on their final day after Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye ordered the lanes reopened even though Wildstein said the study was a success.
"None of that made any sense to me," she said. "This was totally contrary to anything he was telling me. I didn't understand it at all."
Kelly is accused of plotting with Wildstein and another former Christie ally, Bill Baroni, to close lanes on the bridge, which connects Fort Lee and New York, as revenge against Sokolich. Kelly and Baroni have pleaded not guilty and have said the government has twisted federal law to turn their actions into crimes.
Kelly's testimony again calls into question Christie's public comments about what he knew. She also testified Friday that Christie approved of the idea for a traffic study of the bridge, and she testified she spoke with the governor a third time about the lane closures while they were going on.
Christie spokesman Brian Murray has said the governor had "no knowledge prior to or during these lane re-alignment" and "no role in authorizing them." Murray added that anything said to the contrary "is simply untrue."
Kelly on Monday also testified that Christie said that he had told Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to have Foye back off in the days after Foye had testified to New Jersey lawmakers that the lane closures were ordered by Wildstein and that he had no knowledge about any traffic study.
One of Christie's top political advisers, Mike DuHaime, testified Friday that he told Christie ahead of a December 2013 news conference that Kelly and his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, knew about the lane closures. Christie then told reporters that no one in his administration was involved in the closures.
Wildstein, who was appointed by the Christie administration to a newly created position at the Port Authority, testified that he used the agency to help Christie for political purposes.
The scandal developed just after Christie won re-election handily and as his national political profile was rising. It ultimately weighed down his presidential campaign, which ended with a fizzle in the primary season after a poor showing in New Hampshire.
Kelly also testified Monday that working for Christie was "confusing and frightening" but that he could also be charming. She testified Friday that Christie once threw a water bottle at her, angry that she suggested he introduce local political leaders at an event following a massive fire at the Jersey shore. She said then that she was afraid of him.

October 11, 2016

Court Testimony:’Christie Knew of Lane Closures’ but Denied it



 “Christie was fuming” word had leaked out and he wanted to know who did



 

It was early December 2013, and Gov. Chris Christie was fuming. 

The Republican governor was set to hold a high-profile press conference to announce the resignation of his top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He had summoned his senior staff to a 10 a.m. meeting in his office.
Story Continued Below

With the scandal surrounding the George Washington Bridge lane closures continuing to grow, Christie wore his emotions on his sleeve, according to Deborah Gramiccioni, who was about to be named the new deputy executive director of the Port Authority, which operates the bridge.
“During this meeting with the governor and senior staff, the governor was incredibly angry and let us know how angry he was,” Gramiccioni, who was then a deputy chief of staff to Christie, testified in federal court on Monday. “In a thunderous tone, [he] told us how disappointed he was that he had just won a landslide victory and was now dealing with a number of things, one of them being the lane closure.”

Christie wanted to know if the staffers had any emails — any information — about the lane closures. He gave a deadline: Staff had one hour to tell either of his two highest ranking staffers, Counsel Charles McKenna or Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd, what they knew, according to Gramiccioni.
Gramiccioni, sitting in U.S. District Court this morning, said she had already told McKenna and O’Dowd that she heard Bridget Anne Kelly, another deputy chief of staff to Christie and now a defendant in the Bridgegate case, was on emails involving the lane closures. She said she also told Christie that a day earlier. And Gramiccioni said that Bill Baroni, the man she was about to replace at the Port who is now also a defendant in the case, was the one who told her.

Baroni and Kelly were indicted last May on charges of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations. They are accused of closing local access lanes to the bridge — the world’s busiest — to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing the Republican governor in his 2013 re-election bid.
Gramiccioni testified that after the meeting with the governor, she continued to prepare for the press conference, but at several points saw into Kelly’s office. O’Dowd was hovering over Kelly’s shoulder, looking at her computer screen. She said she also “believed” she saw Bill Stepien, the governor’s campaign manager, standing in the corner.

Christie held his press conference, and of course was asked about the lane closures and whether he could “say with certainty” that no one on his staff had been involved. Christie said he could.
Later in the day, before leaving the statehouse, Gramiccioni said she saw Kelly in her office. Kelly looked like she’d been crying, so she went to talk to her.

“She said that she had been looking at her computer through her emails all morning and she didn’t know if she had any emails regarding the lane closures,” Gramiccioni said. “I didn’t understand that.”
Kelly said she would routinely delete emails because she had a contentious relationship with her ex-husband and didn’t want her children to find any emails between them, Gramiccioni recalled.
“I said, did you have anything to do with this?” Gramiccioni said. “And she adamantly denied having anything to do with the lane closures.”

Gramiccioni said she told Kelly, who she considered a friend, that she should come clean if she had anything to do with the incident.

A month later, after an email was released in which Kelly declared it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie fired Kelly.

The governor, currently a top adviser to Donald Trump, has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the incident.

David Wildstein, who was appointed by Christie to be the Port’s director of interstate capital projects, has testified that he and Baroni told the governor about the lane closures as they were occurring. Wildstein has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy counts and implicated the two other defendants.
Gramiccioni, a former assistant U.S. attorney who is currently executive director of the Center of the Administration of Criminal Law at the NYU Law School, was nominted this year by Christie for a Superior Court judgeship in Monmouth County. The nomination is still pending before the state Senate.

July 15, 2016

Close Christie Aide Charge with Role in BridgeGate+more



       


Jamie Fox, a former state cabinet official and longtime power player in New Jersey politics, has been charged in connection with the federal government's long-running investigation into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced the criminal complaint against Fox at a press conference Thursday about an hour after the Port Authority's former chairman, David Samson, pleaded guilty to a bribery count for his role in securing a special United Airlines flight between Newark Liberty International Airport and Columbia, S.C., not far from his vacation home.
David Samson meets with federal judge in Newark David Samson arrives at the federal courthouse in Newark Thursday ahead of his guilty plea.(Robert Sciarrino | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)  
Fox, a former Port Authority official who later became a lobbyist for the airline, is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery for allegedly using his influence to help arrange the flight, which shaved hours off Samson's commute.
If convicted, Fox faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
Fox has previously denied using his influence to secure the flight, which was canceled shortly after Samson stepped down from the Port Authority in March 2014.
An internal investigation by United led to the ouster of the airline's chief executive, Jeff Smisek, and two other executives in September 2015.
On Thursday, Fishman said United will pay a $2.25 million penalty for its role in the special flight, known to insiders as the "chairman's flight." The airline also agreed to institute "substantial reforms to its compliance program," Fishman said.
In a statement, Fox's lawyer, Michael Critchley, called his client an honorable public servant who believed the arrangement between United and Samson was "fully vetted and completely appropriate."
"Anyone who knows Jamie knows that he would never jeopardize his reputation by engaging in the behavior alleged in the indictment," Critchley said. "Jamie is not a lawyer. ... Jamie unfortunately has found himself caught in the middle of an arrangement that he believed was reviewed and approved by the necessary business and legal professionals."
David Samson pleads guilty in airline shakedown
Charges filed in the wake of the Bridgegate criminal investigation into abuses by political appointees at the Port Authority, then headed by Samson.

Critchley added that Fox, who is suffering from "multiple, serious" illnesses, "will not allow this unfair stain to be the last word on his distinguished career."
The U.S. Attorney called the behavior by both Samson and Fox "honestly so sad."
"They both should have known better," Fishman said. "They both did know better."
He added that when public officials misuse their offices, it shakes trust in government.
"It's a betrayal of our trust," he said. "It breathes more life into the cynical view that all people in government are corrupt."
The federal probe into the United route was an outgrowth of the investigation into the politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and his ally at the Port Authority,  former Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, are charged with orchestrating the lane closures in September 2013 as payback to the mayor of Fort Lee for declining to endorse the governor in his re-election effort.
Another former Christie ally, David Wildstein, has already pleaded guilty in the case. Kelly and Baroni are expected to stand trial in September.
The closures caused gridlock for hours in Fort Lee, delaying ambulances on emergency calls and buses ferrying kids to school.
Bridgegate trial will go forward, federal judge rules
U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton denied motions to dismiss the case.

By filing charges against Fox, the federal government is pursuing another figure with an outsize imprint on New Jersey politics, particularly among Democrats.
Once a staffer in the administration of former Gov. Jim Florio, Fox later served as chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli and former Gov. James E. McGreevey.
When McGreevey resigned in disgrace in 2004, Fox jumped to the Port Authority, where he held the position of deputy executive director, a position of significant authority at the bistate agency, which controls billions of dollars.
Fox left in 2007 to work a private consultant, briefly suspending that role while he served as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. He then returned to his consulting firm, which counted among its clients United Airlines.
Fox is also a two-time commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, first from 2002 to 2003 and then from September 2014 to October 2015. He announced his resignation as commissioner amid increasing scrutiny about his role in the "chairman's flight."
Two former state officials accused him of violating ethics laws by failing to recuse himself from talks at a private meeting between Port Authority officials and United executives. Fox denied any ethical lapse.

Published
By Ted Sherman and Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 

September 4, 2014

GW Bridge Officers Warned Supervisors about the Hazard Conditions, told to Keep Quiet


                                                                          

Police officers on the George Washington Bridge last September during lane closures apparently ordered by Republican Gov. Chris Christie's aides as political payback said they warned superiors about the hazardous conditions created and were told not to talk about it on their radios, according to a summary provided by their lawyer to a legislative panel investigating the scandal.
Attorney Dan Bibb, who works for the union representing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officers, relayed information from 11 officers, including at least three who said they were told about the traffic change by a lieutenant who ordered them not to move the traffic cones blocking the lanes. Bibb's comments were included in a synopsis obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Bibb told the legislative panel's investigators that one of the officers, Steve Pisciotta, used his police radio to report hazardous conditions being caused by the severe traffic and was told to "shut up" by Deputy Inspector Darcy Licorish. Bibb said Pisciotta told him that Lt. Thomas Michaels and a sergeant visited him "to tell him that his radio communication had been inappropriate."
Michaels said in an earlier interview with the investigators that the Port Authority executive who ordered the closures, David Wildstein, called him the week before and asked him what would happen if three lanes were reduced to one. But the investigators said he told them that he didn't have any direct knowledge about why the lanes were changed and that he found out about the plan to change them the night before.
Lawyers representing Michaels and Licorish didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts referred to a statement issued earlier this year in which he said Christie never had conversations with Michaels about the bridge, which connects Fort Lee and New York City. Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has called the lane closings "inexplicably stupid" but said he didn't know about them beforehand.
Investigators are looking into who approved closing the lanes in Fort Lee, causing four days of massive traffic jams, apparently to punish its mayor, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who didn't support Christie for re-election. The lane closures came weeks after Christie's then-deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, sent a message to Wildstein: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Michaels, who grew up in Livingston with Wildstein and Christie and coached Christie's son's hockey team, told the investigators that he drove Wildstein through Fort Lee to get a closer look at the traffic on the first morning of the lane closures and that Wildstein told him they were part of a traffic study. He told the investigators that he didn't discuss anything "substantive concerning the lane closures" with Wildstein while eating breakfast with him that morning.
He told them he had only occasional interactions with Christie at the hockey rink and didn't otherwise talk with him. His brother was a campaign adviser for Christie in 2009.
Wildstein graduated from Livingston High School a year before Christie and was hired in 2010 at the Port Authority by Christie's top appointee there, deputy executive director Bill Baroni.
In January, Wildstein appeared before the legislative committee investigating the lane closures but declined to answer any questions. Kelly, who was fired in January, also refused to cooperate with the legislative committee.
The Record was the first to report on the Bibb document.
___
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report from Mexico City.

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