David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official with ties to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the “Bridgegate” scandal, is expected to plead guilty Friday to federal charges in connection with the incident, reports said. United States attorney Paul Fishman said a federal court in Newark would hear a “proceeding of interest in a criminal matter” and announced a press conference this afternoon related to the 16-month investigation but declined to provide further detail, the New York Times reports.
The terms of Wildstein’s purported deal remain unknown, as do the criminal charges to which he will plead guilty. Federal officials, as well as Wildstein and his attorney, have denied comment on the proceedings. Authorities are also expected to announce indictments against Christie’s former aides who were connected to the “Bridgegate” scandal, according to NBC New York. It’s unclear which aides will face charges and what the charges will be.
Wildstein ordered the closure of two of the George Washington Bridge’s access lanes in September 2013, which resulted in days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and triggered a federal investigation. The former Port Authority official, who attended high school with Christie, has said the governor was aware of the lane closures as they occurred. Christie denied he knew about the lane closures before they went into effect.
Wildstein and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, purportedly ordered the lane closures in response to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to support Christie for re-election, ABC News reports. Christie’s aides initially claimed the lane closures were part of a traffic study. But the subsequent release of damning emails forced Wildstein to resign as the Port Authority’s director of interstate capital projects in December 2013.
The unannounced lane closures caused significant damage to Christie’s reputation in New Jersey and may yet be a factor in derailing his rumored plans to seek the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 2016.