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Former Traffic Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Bridge-Closing Scandal Former Traffic Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Bridge-Clo... Former Traffic Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Bridge-Closing ... Former Traffic Official P...

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Politics

Former Traffic Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Bridge-Closing Scandal

A former Port Authority executive called to testify in a hearing Thursday says he is asserting his right to remain silent.

David Wildstein(Screenshot/New Jersey Legislature)

photo of Marina Koren
January 9, 2014

The tone at a hearing on the unfolding bridge scandal in New Jersey is starkly different from that of the marathon press conference the state's governor held earlier.

While Chris Christie talked for more than 100 minutes, his ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey refused to talk. David Wildstein, the former director of Interstate Capital Projects there, cited the Fifth Amendment before the state Assembly's transportation committee.

Wildstein, Christie's high-school classmate, only indicated that he is unemployed and lives in Montville, N.J. His response to every other question during the hearing was a variation of the statement, "On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent."

 

About an hour into the hearing, the committee found Wildstein in contempt, which is a misdemeanor, for refusing to answer questions, and ended the hearing. 

A state Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that the transportation committee has the power to compel Wildstein to testify, but the official's lawyer said that the New Jersey and U.S. constitutions override that decision. He has given a variation of that answer to every question posed by the committee since.

Wildstein resigned from his post last month, shortly after suspicion arose that the September lane closures may have been a politically motivated move against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.

Email documents first reported Wednesday by Bergen County's The Record showed that Wildstein communicated with Bridget Anne Kelly, a top governor's office aide Christie has since fired, ahead of the lane closures last year.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly wrote in August. "Got it," Wildstein replied.

Shawn Boburg, the Record reporter who broke the story, tells CNN that Wildstein was a longtime Christie condifante, the "eyes and ears inside this massive agency." Christie's version of his relationship with Wildstein is anything but. "David and I were not friends in high school," he said Thursday. "I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time."

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