NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — One of the defendants seeking to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn his conviction in New Jersey's "Bridgegate" case wants to argue separately from his co-defendant, highlighting the different strategies they plan to use when the case is heard next month.
Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni made the request in a recent filing to the court. Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 14.
The Supreme Court earlier this year agreed to hear the appeals of Baroni and Bridget Kelly, who were convicted in 2016 of orchestrating traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge into New York to punish a political foe who opposed then-Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's reelection.
Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff and Baroni was a top Christie appointee to the Port Authority. Christie wasn't charged. Baroni had already begun serving his sentence last spring but was released after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, while Kelly has remained free on bail pending the appeal.
They were convicted of defrauding the Port Authority of money and property because time and labor was required to effectuate the lane realignments that caused the traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee, whose mayor declined to endorse Christie. Baroni later claimed the lanes were realigned as part of a traffic study.
Baroni argued in a filing last week that his attorneys should be allowed to argue separately from Kelly's on Jan. 14 since the government is basing its argument on its assertion that in his position as deputy executive director, he didn't have the authority to realign the lanes.
“Kelly’s criminal liability, in the government’s view, is thus derivative of Baroni’s,” his attorneys wrote. “That is, according to the government, if Baroni had authority, and thus committed no crime, neither did Kelly.”
Both defendants have argued in previous court filings that the government overreached by misapplying federal statutes to fit the facts of the case. They contend if the convictions stand, it will have the effect of criminalizing a wide swath of political behavior.
The government contended in a filing last month that political considerations take a backseat to the fact that the defendants exceeded their authority in order to “commandeer” Port Authority resources and lied about the traffic study.