BRIDGEGATE TRIAL–On Monday, Bill Baroni will have a lot of explaining to do

Bill Baroni--WSJ Photo
Bill Baroni–WSJ Photo

Bill Baroni, a defendant in the Bridgegate trial, will testify Monday and, boy, he’d better be good because, so far, his case is depending on people like Marilyn Graber who wanted the jury to know she has three “fabulous” grandchildren and lost 135 pounds at a weight loss clinic at Duke University where she met the nicest man 21 years ago. And his name was Bill Baroni.

Ok, so it’s not nice to poke fun at eager character witnesses who, after all, only want to help out a friend in a legal jam. But, aside from Christie aide Charles McKenna–who wasn’t much help–Baroni’s defense so far has called Mrs. Graber and two other character witnesses, all of whom had to admit they didn’t have the foggiest notion of the case against their friend.

So, on Monday, according to Michael Baldassare, his lawyer, Baroni will take the stand and he sure has a lot of explaining to do.  There may be one other witness before him, says Baldassare but, unless its Pope Francis coming in with inside information about how Christie himself moved the orange cones,  the testimony from whomever it is won’t make much of a difference.

Baroni is likely to make a good witness. He’s tall and attractive and has an easy manner tinged with inclusive good humor–he doesn’t mind making jokes about himself. He is a lawyer and was a state legislator, one of the last–maybe THE last–moderate Republican to grace the Statehouse.

As Baldassare said in his opening several years ago–no, it was just four weeks–he was too moderate for the incoming Christie administration (he supported gay marriage and family leave), so he was shipped out to a six-figure job at the Port Authority where he could provide work for David Wildstein and not vote against Christie’s 17th century legislative agenda in Trenton.

To emphasize Baroni’s moderation Friday, Baldassare called a character witness named David Mixner who just about described Baroni as something to the left of Bernie Sanders on gay rights, the environment, civil rights, on and on.

“We became fast friends and literally solved the problems of the world each week,” said Mixner before objections from the government cut off the Woody-Guthrie-like hymn of praise.

Character witnesses are, well, not favored by courts because they really can’t attest to anything except a personal opinion about someone’s honesty.

The jurors will probably like Baroni but they also will want to have some answers to important questions before they vote on his guilt or innocence. Like–if you weren’t helping to put the squeeze on Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, why didn’t you pick up your damn cell phone and tell him why “concrete gridlock”–Sokolich’s phrase–was constipating the town?

Because Bill, you did, after all, have the time in those days of crisis in September, 2013,  to send emails and text and make calls to the likes of your co-defendant Bridget Anne Kelly and almost co-defendant David Wildstein, now the government’s chief witness?

Baroni’s only substantive witness–Christie staff chief Charles McKenna–opened a door a little bit during his testimony–by saying the reason no one wanted to let people know about the so-called “traffic study” was that it might affect the behavior of motorists and thereby “skew” the results of the study. Real scientific stuff.

Nice try, Charlie, a sort of an evidentiary Hail Mary–except, starting with PA executive director Patrick Foye–no one but no one in the Port Authority said there was a traffic study. If Baroni insists to the jury he believed there was one, he will come off either as a gracious liar–and guilty–or an incredibly stupid man who deserves to be found guilty of something just as payback for cosmic obtuseness.

McKenna even walked away from that excuse during his last day of testimony by saying that, while, maybe, the PA shouldn’t have told motorists about the study, it should have informed the cops, firefighters and EMS workers who had to deal with the traffic. He made a distinction between “public disclosure and public safety.”

Baroni also will have to explain why he didn’t give a damn about how the people of Fort Lee would be impacted–or forgot to give a damn–when he was, in past events, so solicitous of New Jersey residents when the PA wanted to pave a road.

And, in those infamous pictures,  just what was Baroni talking and laughing about with Christie and Wildstein during the 9/11 ceremonies that year? The jokes told at the memorial service? Yeah, 9/11 remembrances are a laugh a minute.

Finally, the last piece of evidence introduced by the government was a tape of Baroni’s performance before the legislative committee investigating the lane closures. He was, on occasion, a little snarky, a little wise-ass, dealing with his former colleagues. If Baroni comes across as an altar-boy to the jury Monday–even a double-crossed altar-boy who listened unwisely but too well to Father Christie–the jurors will wonder who the real Bill Baroni is.

No matter how much weight he lost. No matter how much he supported LGBTQ rights.

There is still some hope, if not much, for another way for the trial to end. Defense lawyers concluded the abbreviated session Friday by routinely moving for dismissal of the case, mostly on the grounds that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to lead a reasonable jury to find guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

These motions sometimes win.

In movies.

As a cultural event, however, it was interesting to watch Michael Critchley, Jr–the son of Bridget Kelly’s lead attorney–argue one aspect of the motion. Baroni and Kelly have been charged with depriving motorists of their constitutional right to move freely.

Critchley rightly pointed out there is always traffic at the George Washington Bridge. “Traffic is the state of affairs in Fort Lee,” he said.

So, how, he asked Judge Shirley Wigenton to consider, does traffic ever become criminalized?

“We didn’t cause traffic–the traffic already was there. The issue is how much more traffic does it take to rise to the level of a deprivation of a constitutional right?”

Judge Wigenton politely said thank you and said she would have a decision Monday.

Bill Baroni will have a lot of explaining to do.







  1. (Warning: More than a token number of expletives ahead.)

    I need to come right out and say it:

    This is why you are Bob Braun, it’s why you are here, and it is why I am forever grateful to you and everyone else in your life who, in myriad intersecting ways, had something to do with making Bob Braun’s Ledger possible. Of course I am aware that we can’t win ’em all and that we all have our critics.

    “… a must-read …”

    That’s how one peer once described this Ledger, not long after its inception.

    “Is it just me?”

    That’s how it feels, much of the time, when I try to put into words the value I get from yours. The answer, of course, is no.

    Thank you, for making time, sticking to the duty, and continually reminding readers that we’re at our best when living in something more than an occasional moment of truth.

    For Christie people, this simple American norm vanishes into a completely abstract post-United States discussion, presenting as an inverse relationship, while tryin’ hard as sin to play to the public like they are just kindly neighbors, with warrior hearts, and that it’s so not part and parcel of their ignoble posturing. Christie people would never think of – gulp – telling a lie. Under oath. In this, one of the sickest spectacles ever to burst from the secure confines of the Republican big top. Even by Jersey standards.

    They plunk twenty mil in chump change (much more than this, but who’s counting?), from the taxpayer betting pool, to help us believe that they have nothing to hide – nothing worth lying for. Plus, they … simply … never … would do … that. Not Bill Baroni. Not any of them. They’re Christie people. True Christie people. Through and through. Goin’ way back, to before we even kept records. Of their lies.

    So, I have to think: How many more like this have they got locked up back there? Behind Christie’s “fairness” policies and “simple” truths. Democrats, too. Mercy me!

    It’s diseased, this, the way they set about profiting – the political profiteering in particular. Juicy 21st century profits, from the monetization of … what, exactly? What will America trade on in the information economy? How we gonna stay so rich, that we can continue to afford to keep Christie people in the style to which they are accustomed?

    We’re going to need big profits. Big ones. And certified – “free of lies” – by impartial rating agencies, like Mastro & Company. Sorry – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, with the new-workplace homework-eating dog kennel, placed conveniently on the basement level, for all of their loyal employees.

    Profits? How? From cultivating in people – also in myriad ways – a perverse relationship with what they most do NOT want to see? Isn’t this the opposite of love, courage, unfettered insight, and the acceptance of the unvarnished truth, and with a big old dollar sign attached, and dangling, from their recently-promoted, “squeaky clean” necks?

    What? Me? Pimped?

    Uh, better go check your look again, Christie people.

    The Christie gang is going to jump us – and fill us to the top, if, somehow, we just cannot resist – with some two-faced losing artifice that we’re supposed to then go wave around, like a banner, for the team.

    Yay! Yay for the team. Team Christie. Go. Go team.

    And if you don’t – if you instead wise up, pause, turn from the pack, and restore power to your thinking cap, you run the serious risk of being shot by your own. Own what?

    Stalin’s ghost would be proud of our newest Republican conscripts (see his order # 227). Trump Republicans, once Reagan Republicans, really get the Christie message, the one Donald himself pays to have hand-delivered by his personal chef, Big Boy. They know how to wage a high-casualty fight. I still want to know, btw, who’s coaching Big Boy (besides Mastro). Besides his mother, has he ever said? Does he want all of the genius credit to himself?

    Selfish little grandstanding scrounger that he is. And with so many secrets.

    Show us what we’re bidding for, Bob. Are all our prices right? Or will we get owned?

    All of this, to Christie people, is simply another market manipulation. And it’s not government. Supply and demand, the hard way, and with that special Christie flair. Get in their space! Disrupt! You, too, Donald, and no excuses this time! Mess around with them, hard, until they succumb. To all of those formidable charms.

    The fear, the ignorance, the aggression, the sadism. All good for the Christie brand.

    The bewilderment and the confusion. The deliberate poison. The corruption of information.

    The glee. The money. The hopping, from one trophy position to the next. The camaraderie.

    Yeah. The glee, you motherfuckers. You fuckety fuck-dealing fuckers, from The Fucking Governor’s office. Says so on his big brass desk easel – the implicit one, that only those “in the know” used to be able to see. The one that he’ll (not so figuratively) hit you over the head with if, numbnuts, you don’t accept the governor’s latest offer.

    Your own slice of a shitty pie, yet too good to refuse, half-Sicilian style. With a nice, big, Christie logo that you can stamp on your forehead.

    Uncle Sam is wondering about those patent infringements, btw.

    I am all but sure that Baroni cannot explain it, because his adorable face has it: that it all still has him – and quite – by the freshly squozen bitty man-bits. I wonder how he will protect, what he loves most in life, when he renders himself (of his own will and volition?) fundamentally suspect and morally inert, and so early in the process of his dwindling life’s pursuit. An ethical has-been at forty-four?

    I wonder what he holds sacred. And who, in his life, best recognizes, in him, the depth of his deepest devotion?

    He has a shot at coming completely clean in court; an act for which he can actually thank himself (theoretically, Mr. Baroni?), especially later. Can Baroni see that far? From here? From this particular spot? His very own, star of the show, big, big moment? Why is this, for a government official, even negotiable? Because this is Christie law we’ve been living under.

    A) You bid, just low enough. Convincingly lie for the team and take the Christie prize, forever holding your peace.


    B) Fulfill your obligation, under oath, and send the lot of them out into that glorious sunshine, to face the judgement of a stunned and grateful public. Switch on the kitchen light and watch them scatter.

    Bill Baroni must now decide if he thinks the price is right.

    Come on down, Bill!

    And remember: This one is going to stick with you, forever.

    Psst: There’s so much more to living than the misshapen dreams of Christopher J. Christie, mangled boy genius – if you happen to have the pluck to straighten up and serve notice, to the free world, that you’ve got the juice. Haven’t you seen, Bill, the way he picks his nose while kneading the dough?

    All right then! Let’s see if William E. “Bill” Baroni is, in fact, a winner.

  2. Also:

    On a side note, Bob, have you noticed any similarity in the way Chris Cerf and Bill Baroni “turn it on” when it’s time to impress their respective publics? Could be it is just me. Could also be they share some of the same Kool Aid. That stuff really gets around. I see that the Booker gang is getting ready to ride again. Doin’ the new Clinton (and post-Christie) calculus, on napkins, casual style.

    Figuring their take of the election. Tryna answer the question of how to make it all look respectable, when, most of the time, it isn’t.

    Camera phones are not all bad — sometimes coming in handy. A day in the life:

    The Garden State is in for a serious PTSD phase. Christie saw to that. Democrats will surely try to capitalize on our deliberate bad fortune, when what they should have been doing, all along, is just playing it straight.

    Problem is, for the most part, our pols have long forgotten how. Tougher for them, by now, than the indelible weightlessness of just riding a bicycle – for the deep joy of simply being able to. Could be it’s all become a completely alien terrain for them. A terrain more like the challenge of recovery — from the memory, and the impacts, of a relentless assault.

    Body and mind, bruised and damaged, just for being different. For being a person of color. Or female. For being the aggressor’s first pick in scapegoats, or their second pick in marks for the long con. Or, their idea of a handy and disposable sport-fuck. For being prey to someone’s sick ambition.

    A tall order, for those who are trapped in the lifestyle, whatever it is. But I’ll say it straight up – no one wants to be a victim, not given the choice, and not if they are healthy in body and in mind.

    And it is NOT amazing, that some people will never bite on the lure of such victimhood. It is a supremely human and natural thing to avoid that life. Respect to all of us who have succeeded in their commitment to living beyond the limitations of our shocks and injustices, severe as they are.

    We weep for the fallen. Then, we weep for ourselves.

    Then we get back to working among the living. We watch the politicians file in late, to take a seat up front, like they somehow own the place. Our place. An opportunity which they intend to (mis)acquire, brand as their own, and then lease back to us, for a sweet little return.

    Because they are so Jersey smart. Or boutique educated. Or dug in, like watchful alley cats, always spraying around.

    Without question, they claim, they are entitled to rule. By these virtues, they place themselves above us all. Sheesh.

    Never, I say, kiss the ass of a true Social Darwinist. It’s habit forming in the extreme, and the separation stage, for survivors, is killer. For those who’ve made the mistake – that’s how we learn, and learn we must. Assuming, that is, we still care enough to go on doing what should come naturally. That is, after all, what we’re here for. To have a conversation, with reality, like it’s never going to end.

    No greater kindness than healing all wounds.

    Few things more hellish than being ruled by cultish devotees of a slicked-up doom loop.

    No matter who happens to get rich off it. No matter who snatches the upper hand, and the lion’s share, exclusively for themselves.

    Christie people have little apparent concern regarding the depth of their broad betrayals of the public trust. Someone, obviously, told them it would all be okay, and affirmed for them their worthiness to be in charge of our not-so-cherished civic institutions. Who wore us down this way? The Darwinists ride again.

    Who has an answer for – and to – the Christie-inspired chapter of this, our legacy of dug-in dead-enders? Is there anyone left who can take this one on?

    Another viceroy from Goldman Sachs, by way of the Obama/Gates/Zuckerberg administration, and burnished, only, by a sweet stint in Germany, they say?

    This is the brand which aims to fix our American-style jonesing on corporate-inspired paeans to monumental human stupidity? They’re the designated geniuses who are going to help us face the consequences of having devolved into a loose confederation of petty, warring, free-market fiefdoms?

    This is our new man with a plan? Murphy, unveiled?


  3. Thank you TK2016 for the link to that priceless picture (URL repeated here for those who didn’t bother to click the first time around)
    When I think of the money I contributed to Ras Baraka’s mayoral campaign, the time I spent talking to people and working for his election, and most important of all, the hope I had that there was a slim chance of finally seeing some justice in Newark, I am overwhelmed with anger and, yes, shame. Shame that he played me…I mean I knew who and what Corey Booker is but I actually believed in Ras and look at how it’s turned out.
    The picture didn’t show me anything I didn’t already suspect/know, but it did piss me off.
    And why oh why does it always have to be Montclair?! The only person missing in that picture is Tony Soprano.
    And I repeat, per usual, thank God for Bob Braun and his blog. Thanks Bob for what you do.

    1. I read that link twice. I thought I was not reading it right. What was that slogan? “If I am the mayor. You are the mayor.” Thank you.

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