A former ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared himself guilty Friday of the 2013 "Bridgegate" scandal brought on by the partial closure in 2013 of a bridge between that state and New York.
David Wildstein, a former executive of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, on Friday became the first high-ranking official to admit guilt on two charges of conspiracy during a hearing at the federal court in Newark, New Jersey.
Two lanes on the George Washington Bridge were closed in 2013 without previous notice, which caused a huge traffic jam on the New Jersey side that lasted four days.
Accusations were soon heard that the blocked bridge was really the result of an orquestrated operation to "punish" the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, for not supporting Christie's reelection bid.
Wildstein, a long-time friend of Christie, has spend months cooperating with the authorities, and after admitting his guilt Friday, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The Republican governor said after the hearing in Newark that "Today's charges make clear that what I've said from day one is true, I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act."
"The moment I first learned of this unacceptable behavior I took action, firing staff believed to be accountable, calling for an outside investigation...Now 15 months later it is time to let the justice system do its job," Christie said in a communique.
The "Bridgegate" scandal has weighed heaviy on the New Jersey governor and on his hopes of being the Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.
Meanwhile, a grand jury presented Friday nine charges against another two people close to Christie - the ex-deputy executive director of the Port Authority, Bill Baroni, and Christie's former deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, Bridget Anne Kelly.
According to the documents presented in court, the accused "deliberately" caused enormous traffic problems on the Fort Lee side "and promoted a sham story that reducing the number of lanes and toll booths accessible...was for a traffic study."
In January 2014 an e-mail between Kelly, Wildstein and Bill Stepien, Christie's ex-campaign chief, was discovered that showed the bridge closure was definitely orchestrated.