NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11)-- After shaking hands inside a federal courtroom this morning in Newark, Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni pleaded not guilty.
Kelly was Governor Chris Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff. Christie appointed Baroni as Deputy Executive Director at the Port Authority, the second highest post at the agency.
Kelly and Baroni are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and civil rights abuses, after an alleged cover up and lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
Another former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of conspiracy. He is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's office and is expected to testify against Kelly and Baroni. In court Friday, he admitted to coordinating and covering up a politically motivated scheme aimed at punishing Mayor Mark Sokolich, the Mayor of Fort Lee. Two out of three local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed for four mornings during the week of Sept. 9, 2013, choking traffic in the town on the first week of school. First responders reported delays, individuals and businesses have filed civil lawsuits to recoup losses.
Bridget Kelly is accused of sending the damning e-mail: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." To which Wildstein responded: "got it."
Kelly was silent in and out of court today. But her attorney said Governor Chris Christie could be ordered to testify or provide evidence.
“I will subpeona anybody who has information," stated Michael Critchley, Sr.
Baroni broke his silence for the first time in over a year today.
“I would never risk my career, my job, my reputation for something like this," he said, "I am an innocent man."
In November of 2013, Baroni testified before the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the lanes were closed to perform a traffic study.
Emails show that more than a dozen Port Authority engineers and others helped to set up the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has stated that they participated unknowingly. But legal documents state that Port Authority Police officers told people stuck in traffic that the lanes were closed because of a decision made by the Mayor of Fort Lee. Text messages and other evidence point to political retribution. Mayor Mark Sokolich did not endorse Governor Christie for re-election in 2013.
The trial for Baroni and Kelly is expected to begin on July 7, 2015. The federal indictment in this case carries the weight of 126 consecutive years in prison for each defendant and a maximum of $350,000 in fines, plus losses and victims' restitution.
Bail for Baroni and Kelly was set at $150,000 each.
Wildstein is due to be sentenced in August.