NEWARK, NJ - Former Livingston Mayor David Wildstein pleaded guilty on Friday to charges stemming from his role in the Bridgegate scandal.
Former Port Authority Deputy Director Bill Baroni and Governor Chris Christie's former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly were indicted on nine counts for their alleged involvement in the scheme. According to some longtime Livingston elected officials, Wildstein’s admissions in the Bridgegate scandal were not surprising and, in their view, harken back to his behavior while he was an elected official in Livingston.
In the indictment, Wildstein admitted to knowingly and intentionally conspiring with others including Kelly and Baroni to intentionally misuse Port Authority property to cause traffic problems in Fort Lee as punishment for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich not endorsing Christie in his bid for re-election. He also admitted that they also purposely ignored numerous attempts of contact from the mayor and public authorities on the lane and toll booth reductions—even though they were told there were increased risks to public safety and that there was a lost child and problem for EMS in responding to a cardiac arrest.
Wildstein also said that the conspirators concocted a cover story that the lanes were closed for a traffic study and implicated others in the scheme. Wildstein said they specifically planned the gridlock to start on the first day of school in Fort Lee to cause the most problems. In addition, Wildstein admitted that he personally went to the bridge to see the traffic and reported it, in separate phone conversations, to Baroni and Kelly, who both expressed satisfaction that their “scheme was working.”
Wildstein’s plea is no surprise to current and former officials in Livingston. “I knew him when he first got elected to the Livingston Town Council,” said Livingston resident and Freeholder Patricia Sebold. “He caused a lot of trouble then. He started going into schools and telling the administrators what to do and the superintendent had to order him out of the schools. And, at Town Hall, he was very difficult to deal with.”
“His behavior in this incident [Bridgegate] is very typical of how he behaved on Town Council in Livingston when he was mayor,” she added. “When I first heard about it [Bridgegate], I thought, ‘same old David Wildstein.’”
Bob Leopold, of Livingston, who served on the Livingston council with Wildstein, echoed Sebold’s sentiments.
He said, “When the news broke [about Bridgegate], I said, ‘David hasn’t changed in 30 years'.”
At a press conference on Friday, United States Attorney for New Jersey Paul J. Fishman said that the Wildstein, Baroni and Kelly “callously victimized” the citizens of Fort Lee, purposely scheduling the lane-closing plan to coincide with the first day of school.
Fishman said that regarding Bridgegate, based on the evidence currently available, no other individuals will face charges. Meanwhile, on Friday, Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan Zegas repeated statements he previously made that “evidence exists” that Governor Christie, a former Livingston resident, knew about the lane closings as they occurred.
Following Wildstein’s indictment and release of his plea agreement, Kelly, who was indicted on nine counts including conspiracy, civil right offenses, and wire fraud, held a news conference and said, "I am not guilty of the crimes for which I have been accused."
"David Wildstein is a liar,” said Kelly, who will be arraigned Monday.
Baroni’s lawyer also called Wildstein "a liar."