'Bridgegate' sees its first lawsuit

Traffic drives across the George Washington Bridge, Jan. 9, 2014.
Traffic drives across the George Washington Bridge, Jan. 9, 2014.

Six New Jersey residents are suing over 'Bridgegate,' the four-day traffic jam caused by top aides from Gov. Chris Christie's administration as political retribution.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Newark, seeks damages on behalf of the plaintiffs, who claim they lost wages and were late to work because of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, one of the busiest bridges in the world. The plaintiffs called the bridge plot “willful, wanton, arbitrary, and egregious official misconduct,” the Bergen Record reported.“ Defendants in the case include Christie; his former deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly, who has been implicated in the traffic scheme; and two former Port Authority officials, according to the report.

The six residents are from Fort Lee, the town that saw the worst traffic, and neighboring Edgewater and Leonia.

"The defendants in this case were looking to do some serious damage to the residents of Fort Lee. By crippling the town on the first day of school, that's exactly what they accomplished and that's what they're getting sued for," attorney Rosemarie Arnold said. "My client Joy Galicki suffered a severe panic attack as the result of being a 'trapped rat' in gridlock for almost an hour. The rest of my clients plus tens of thousands of other people sustained the economic damages the defendants were looking to cause."

It’s the latest thorn in Christie's side as a long line of inquiries befall the players of the plot. 

On Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly held a hearing to receive testimony from a Port Authority official who was involved in the lane closures last year. David Wildstein, the official who was terminated from his Port Authority job following the September traffic jam, plead the Fifth Amendment—over and over again in a tense hearing.

“I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m wasting my time asking these questions,” committee chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, said dryly. His committee went on to find Wildstein in contempt, an offense that carires a misdemeanor; it has been referred to law enforcement.

Next up, Wisniewski said he wants to hear from Bridget Kelly, the recently fired deputy chief of staff from the governor’s office who apparently orchestrated the closures. 

 "I think next will be Bridget Kelly," Wisniewski told New Jersey radio station WCBS. "We need to hear from her."

No subpoenas have been filed yet.

The New Jersey Assembly was set to release additional documents relating to the case on Friday.

The U.S Attorney in Newark—the very office where Chris Christie made his name as a corruption-fighting prosecutor—also announced it was opening an inquiry on Thursday to see if any federal laws had been broken.

“The Port Authority Office of Inspector General has referred the matter to us, and our office is reviewing it to determine whether a federal law was implicated,” U.S. Attorney spokesman Rebekah Carmichael said Thursday in an emailed statement. 

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has also signalled that the commitee he leads, Commerce, will look into the plot. He told NBC News' Joe Bohannon and Kasie Hunt that it's unlikely he will hold hearings into the matter, saying, "it sounds like the feds and others have that pretty well manned."