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Prosecutors in bridge lane-closing case file court brief, say they have nothing to hide


NEWARK, New Jersey — The attorney for one of the defendants in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing case claims it was his client's ex-colleague who gave the order for the closures to coincide with the first day in school.

An attorney for former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official Bill Baroni filed a document Tuesday that reveals some passages that were blacked out in a filing earlier this month.

Baroni and former Gov. Chris Christie aide Bridget Kelly filed motions this month seeking access to documents that have been withheld and deemed privileged.

Tuesday's filing shows they also are focusing on an alleged admission by former Port Authority official David Wildstein that he planned the lane closures to coincide with the first day of school in Fort Lee. The defense says the government has alleged Baroni planned the timing.

Prosecutors filed a 55-page brief late Tuesday, rejecting claims by the defense attorneys, who alleged evidence has been withheld or dumped in an unusable manner.

The government also opposed a request to move the trial out of northern New Jersey.

Wildstein has pleaded guilty, and Baroni and Kelly were indicted last spring on counts including conspiracy, fraud and deprivation of civil rights.

As part of his plea, Wildstein said the closures were meant to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie for re-election. Christie, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, hasn't been charged and has disavowed any prior knowledge of the scheme.

The closures plunged Fort Lee into gridlock for four days in September 2013 before the Port Authority's executive director ordered the lanes reopened.

The unredacted portions in Tuesday's filing bolster the notion that the defendants will seek to portray Wildstein as a habitual liar who deceived them about the reason for the lane closings.

Baroni and Kelly also are seeking access to additional information from the government under rules of discovery, which require prosecutors to share evidence that might be exculpatory.

The defendants say Christie's office has claimed thousands of documents are privileged and off-limits, including emails sent between Christie's then-press secretary and Wildstein.

Baroni and Kelly also want access to interview notes made by Gibson Dunn, the law firm hired by Christie at taxpayer expense to investigate the lane closings. The firm's report issued in 2014 cleared Christie of wrongdoing, though it didn't interview several key players.

Baroni also wants prosecutors to disclose chain of custody and other information about a hard drive Wildstein allegedly stole from Baroni's work computer and showed to government investigators.

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