The former schoolmate of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who went on to play a central role in the Bridgegate scandal that continues to hound Christie, is causing more trouble for the Governor.
In a filing related to a civil lawsuit in which he is a defendant, David Wildstein, the former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, stated under oath that Christie had used the offer of a well-paid government position to influence a local election in his state, and that in doing so had also illegally revealed grand jury information he was privy to in his former role as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.
Wildstein, is the man who, at the direction of a senior staff member in Christie’s office, gave the order to shut down several access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, NJ as political payback against the town’s mayor who had not supported Christie’s reelection. The shutdown caused days of traffic backups, and left school buses and emergency response vehicles stranded in traffic. Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority and later pled guilty to a conspiracy charge.
In the early days of the scandal, much was made of the fact that Wildstein and Christie had gone to high school together. In memorably dismissive fashion, Christie denied any relationship with him. “David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school,” Christie said. “I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time.”
Wildstein is named in a lawsuit filed by Gerard J. Speziale, the former sheriff of Passaic County, NJ, who also figures in the alleged misbehavior by Christie.
Speziale, a popular candidate, was expected to run for office again in 2010, and had amassed a large campaign war chest that was expected to help other Democrats running for office that Fall. Wildstein alleges that in June 2010, he met with Christie and several other officials in the governor’s private office in Trenton.
According to the court filing, “Christie told Wildstein and the others that he wanted to get Speziale to drop his re-election bid to help Republicans win the post, and to take Speziale’s campaign war chest out of the race.”
Christie, according to the document, told the group that he wanted the man then serving as Deputy Superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department and Deputy Director of Public Safety, Arthur Cifelli, fired.
The document says, “Christie also told Wildstein and others that he knew of Cifelli from his service as U.S. attorney because Cifelli had perjured himself during his testimony in the Grand Jury proceedings related to John Lynch and that his office had considered prosecuting Cifelli for perjury.”
This last element is crucial, because prosecutors are bound by law, except in very limited circumstances, to keep the identity of people testifying before a Grand Jury secret. If Christie did, indeed, reveal Grand Jury information, it would be considered a serious violation of the law.
In the end, the offer of the Port Authority job was successful in getting Speziale out of the race in Passaic County, and rather than use his considerable war chest to aid fellow Democrats, he arranged to donate his remaining funds to charity.
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