The Latest: At trial, tales of gridlock at New Jersey bridge


NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Latest on testimony on the second day of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

The police chief of the town at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal tells a jury a bridge authority official told him to contact one of the two people charged with orchestrating gridlock near the bridge for political revenge.

Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul recounted meeting Robert Durando, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official in charge of the bridge, in a municipal lot on the morning of Sept. 9, 2013, as traffic engulfed the town.

Bendul said when he upbraided Durando about the new traffic pattern that reduced three access lanes between Fort Lee and the bridge to one, Durando told him, “Have the mayor call Baroni.”

That’s a reference to Bill Baroni, the former Port Authority deputy executive director on trial on charges he closed lanes to punish Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election.

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11:30 a.m.

The police chief of the New Jersey town at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal is describing the gridlock that engulfed it three years ago.

Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul testified Tuesday at the federal trial of Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly, two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie. They are charged with reducing access to the bridge to punish the town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie. Christie wasn’t charged.

Bendul described heavy traffic near the bridge and testified that an official from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told him to “have the mayor call Baroni.”

Baroni is a former Port Authority executive. Kelly is Christie’s former deputy chief of staff.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich could also testify Tuesday.

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5:30 a.m.

The alleged target of a political retribution plot by two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie could take the stand at their trial.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich is expected to be one of the first witnesses called by the government in its case against Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni. They allegedly caused massive traffic jams in his city in September 2013 to punish the Democrat for not endorsing Christie.

Kelly and Baroni claim their actions weren’t criminal and the alleged scheme was orchestrated by another former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty.

During opening statements on Monday, defense attorneys portrayed Wildstein as a political opportunist and bully who was Christie’s eyes and ears at the agency, where Baroni was deputy executive director.

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