Unusual secret hearings in the Bridgegate trial, even as jurors weigh a verdict

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NEWARK, N.J. -- Unusual developments took place in court on Wednesday at the trial of the two people accused of directing the Bridgegate scandal, Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni.

For one, all of the court proceedings took place in a courtroom that was ordered closed and locked by the judge. Typically, court proceedings are open to the public.

Second, those proceedings were carried out through a series of sessions throughout the day.

So the scene outside of the courtroom was of lawyers for both sides, as well as defendants Kelly and Baroni, entering court, closing the doors, arguing before the judge for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, then exiting the courtroom, only to return again, and again and again.

Two issues were the substance of the day's closed door arguments in the case.

The case stems, of course, from the September 2013 closure of lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, allegedly as retaliation against Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Chris Christie for reelection.

The closure created traffic gridlock that extended throughout the North Jersey town for days.

The first of the two issues under dispute involved a question that had been sent out by the jury as it deliberated the day before, on Tuesday.

The question was, "Can you be guilty of conspiracy without the act being intentionally punitive toward Mayor Sokolich?"

On Tuesday, in court, when it was open to the public, lawyers for Kelly and Baroni balked -- loudly -- when the judge told jurors that a defendant can be guilty of conspiracy without the act being intentionally punitive toward the mayor.

On Wednesday, the defense attorneys filed a motion to get Judge Susan Wigenton to reverse her answer to the jurors. They argued that because it's not criminal for the Port Authority to block lanes of traffic at the bridge, Kelly and Baroni have to be found innocent of conspiracy unless it's proven that they'd meant to punish Fort Lee's mayor.

However, to get a reversal, the judge would have to reverse herself, which is a tall order for any judge.

Defense attorneys confirmed that there was a second matter under dispute in court, but they would not offer any specifics. With the courtroom having been sealed, there's no knowing until a court transcript is released.

The jury was sent home at 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The legal disputes prevented them from deliberating at all on Wednesday.

They are due back at court Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Whether or not they'll be able to resume deliberations is unclear.

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