When she is tried on charges she conspired to create "traffic problems" at the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor, Bridget Kelly doesn't want jurors to hear she had texted earlier about causing "traffic problems" for a New Jersey rabbi.

Bill Baroni, also accused in the scandal, doesn't want jurors to learn of his alleged earlier effort to retaliate against another local politician who, like the mayor of Fort Lee, failed to endorse Gov. Christie's 2013 reelection.

In court filings last week, Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Christie, and Baroni, a former Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are asking the judge to bar an array of information, some of which was redacted.

The two have company in this strategy: Prosecutors are asking the judge to exclude potential defense tactics.

Among things Baroni's lawyers want kept out: photos from a Sept. 11, 2013, ceremony that could give jurors "the appearance that Mr. Baroni, the governor, and others did not take the memorial service seriously" and 141 pages of Fort Lee ambulance records, which they said would invite a "purely emotional reaction."

Kelly and Baroni are asking the judge to exclude such information from the scheduled September trial on grounds it would prejudice the jury against them. Prosecutors want to keep the defense from persuading the jury that what happened three years ago was just politics as usual.

Kelly's lawyers want to keep out this text exchange from less than a month before the September 2013 lane closings, between her and David Wildstein, a former Christie ally at the Port Authority who is now a prosecution witness:

Wildstein: "And [the rabbi] has officially pissed me off"

Kelly: "Clearly"

Kelly: "We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?"

Wildstein: "Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed"

'Clearly joking'

Kelly penned the now-infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email. Her lawyers say her exchange with Wildstein about a rabbi who had apparently fallen out of favor could "cause the jury to place unnecessary weight on the term traffic problems."

The pair were "clearly joking" about the rabbi, Kelly's lawyers said in the court filing.

But if prosecutors are allowed to present the text exchange, Kelly's lawyers said, they shouldn't be allowed to use the word rabbi. That would be prejudicial, "because one inference is that the alleged conduct . . . is connected to his religion."

The rabbi, who is not named in the court filings but has been identified in news reports as Mendy Carlebach, did not return a message left Friday at Chabad of North and South Brunswick.

When the Kelly-Wildstein exchange was revealed in 2014, Carlebach told news outlets he didn't know why the two were talking about him.

Baroni argued in a separate filing that the judge should not let prosecutors cite the cancellation of meetings with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

The court filing includes correspondence between Wildstein and the man who would soon be Christie's 2013 reelection campaign manager, Bill Stepien, showing they were seeking Fulop's endorsement of Christie and wanted the Democrat to feel indebted to the Republican governor for the settlement of a dispute between the Port Authority and a company Fulop represented.

Later, according to prosecutors, meetings with Fulop were canceled allegedly to "send a message" about his failure to endorse Christie.

Baroni's lawyers argue the dealings with Fulop aren't proof of the charges he faces: conspiring to close lanes to the bridge.

But prosecutors say they show a "common scheme" of using the Port Authority to punish Fulop and Mark Sokolich, the Fort Lee mayor. Both are Democrats.

In a motion filed last week, prosecutors asked to introduce the episode regarding Fulop, which they said was necessary context for the charges against Kelly and Baroni.

For their part, prosecutors are asking the court to bar Kelly and Baroni from questioning the government's motives or calling the lane-closure charges - which include "intentionally misapplying property of an organization receiving federal benefits" - unprecedented.

Kelly's and Baroni's attorneys "are skilled lawyers who may well take the position their clients had no criminal intent and are more scapegoats than the principal actors," said Joseph A. Hayden Jr., a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer and former state deputy attorney general who is not involved in the case.

Both Kelly and Baroni are trying to preclude evidence prior to the alleged conspiracy, which prosecutors say began in August 2013.

Audio, not video

Baroni doesn't want mention of an allegation in the indictment that Wildstein told him in 2011 that they could use the access lanes to the bridge as leverage against Sokolich.

That information isn't relevant and could confuse jurors, Baroni's lawyers said. "Conspiracy law is occasionally difficult even for lawyers to comprehend," they wrote.

Baroni also wants to exclude a video of him testifying before lawmakers in November 2013, when he contended the lane closures were part of a traffic study.

Prosecutors want to show the video because "in the sphere of political theater, Mr. Baroni looks combative," his lawyers wrote. But "the interaction between Mr. Baroni and the politicians is no more than attorneys fighting it out in court only to have a drink together that evening." Audio from the hearing should be played instead, the lawyers said.

Prosecutors are arguing that he and Kelly shouldn't be allowed to contend their actions were nothing more than "politics as usual."

"There's an argument to be made that much of this would simply be carrying out a political agenda," like lining up endorsements, said Carl Golden, press secretary for former Republican Govs. Tom Kean and Christie Whitman who is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. "It just seems in this case some of these folks may have stepped over the line."

"It doesn't appear as if anything very good is going to come out of this for the governor," Golden said.

A newly revealed text exchange - which Baroni's lawyers disclosed last week and want prosecutors to include - concerns an allegation by a former Christie aide that the governor lied during a 2013 news conference.

"The government plans to admit irrelevant information while ignoring such texts (of which there are many)," Baroni's lawyers wrote in the motion.

mhanna@phillynews.com

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