NEWARK, NJ - Livingston High School graduate David Wildstein, now of Montville, the former director of Interstate Capital Projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will plead guilty as early as Friday to unknown charges likely stemming from the 2013 Bridgegate scandal in which Wildstein allegedly ordered traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge, according to a report from Bloomberg News.
On Sept. 9, 2013, during the first week back to school, two of three eastbound toll lanes were closed for the morning rush hour. No warning was provided to the public and there was gridlock and emergency services faced delays. Traffic from Fort Lee was forced to state and interstate expressways and Fort Lee declared the situation to be a threat to public safety.
The situation lasted until September 13 when the two lanes were opened by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. In the email to open the lanes, Foye, an appointee of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), said that state and federal laws may have been broken. At the time, former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, who later resigned, said that Port Authority had closed lanes for a “traffic study.”
The scandal spilled into public view in January 2014, with the release of an e-mail dated August 12, 2013, that was sent to Wildstein by former Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Chris Christie Bridget Kelly.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in the email. “Got it,” replied Wildstein.
The email was sent almost a month before the unannounced lane closures. Moments after the email became public, Christie fired Kelly, who had earlier denied any involvement in the incident.
As traffic backed up onto his streets, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D) asked for an explanation for the lane closures, and after not receiving one, said that he felt he was being punished for something, but didn’t know why.
It was later reported that the closures might have occurred because the mayor didn’t endorse Governor Christie’s campaign for reelection. Another theory, first speculated on by "MSNBC,” is that the closures were intended to affect Sokolich's promotion of Hudson Lights, a major skyscraper under construction at the Fort Lee bridge access point.
To date, Christie has denied knowledge of the plot to close two of the lanes of the GW Bridge, and according to many media outlets, this scandal is hurting his potential run for President.
At a press conference in New Brunswick Wednesday Christie said the possible guilty plea had nothing to do with him.
"I can't speculate as to what may happen or not happen," Christie said. "But we'll see whenever anything does occur and we'll react to it, but I know what the truth is so I'm not the least bit concerned about it."
Wildstein’s attorney, Alan Zegas, has said "evidence exists" Christie was indeed aware of the lane closures before they happened, according to Bloomberg.
In early December 2013, it was reported that Wildstein told Christie’s former press secretary, Michael Drewniak, that he had discussed the lane closings with the governor during a ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Christie has said that he did not remember this discussion, and when asked about his relationship with Wildstein, a former LHS classmate who graduated a year before the governor, Christie said that he knew him, but that the two were never friends.
Wildstein is scheduled to appear in federal court in Newark on Friday, where grand jurors have been hearing testimony “in secret” for four months.
A plea by Wildstein will be the first conviction in this case for U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.