[UPDATE: In addition to the Wildstein indictment and guilty plea described below, two more top Christie officials, Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, have now been indicted as well, on seven counts each for charges of conspiracy and fraud. Those indictments are now posted here.]
This will not be good for Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)'s already long-shot chances of winning the 2016 Republican nomination for President. In fact, this could be the end of the line for him.
David Wildstein, one of Christie's top staffers at the center of the notorious "BridgeGate" scandal which shut down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge [GWB] from the town of Fort Lee, NJ beginning on the first day of school in September of 2013, has now accepted a plea agreement, pleading guilty to two federal charges of "Conspiracy to Obtain by Fraud, Knowingly Convert, and Intentionally Misapply Property of an Organization Receiving Federal Benefits" and "Conspiracy Against Civil Rights".
The punitive traffic shut down occurred, according to the federal indictment (posted in full below), in retaliation against Fort Lee's Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich's refusal to endorse the Republican Christie in his 2013 gubernatorial re-election bid against Democratic state Senator Barbara Buono, as initially suspected when the "BridgeGate" scandal first came to light last year.
"The object of the conspiracy was to misuse Port Authority property to facilitate and conceal the causing of traffic problems in Fort Lee as punishment of Mayor Sokolich," the federal plea agreement charges. "Just as the Conspirators had intended, the lane and toll both reductions resulted in significant traffic in Fort Lee, both for motorists intending to access the GWB from the Local Approach and for the residents of Fort Lee, whose streets were choked with traffic backing up from the Local Approach. ... [T]he Conspirators purposely ignored communications from Mayor Sokolich, including his pleas for help, requests for information, and repeated warnings about the increased risks to public safety."
Despite a call from a Port Authority employee who was unaware of the scheme, warning that the traffic congestion had already caused problems for police and ambulance responding to a missing child and a resident having a cardiac arrest, the conspirators ignored all such concerns and kept the closure in place...