Bridgegate Scandal: Ex-Christie Allies Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly Get Prison
- Author: Zachary Reyes Mar 30, 2017,
Mar 30, 2017, 8:49
Bill Baroni, 45, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey, will serve two years, while Bridget Kelly, 44, a former deputy of staff for Christie, received a sentence of 1 1/2 years.
Chris Christie were sentenced to prison Wednesday for engineering lane closures at the George Washington Bridge as alleged retaliation against a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse the governor.
Two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie were sentenced to prison Wednesday over a political revenge plot involving traffic jams at the country's busiest bridge, a scandal that sank Christie's White House ambitions and that the judge called a product of a poisonous climate in state politics.
Both were convicted a year ago of scheming to repeatedly close approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge in a political revenge plot that snarled rush hour traffic for almost a week in September 2013.
A Newark jury convicted the pair of conspiracy and fraud in November for helping to carry out the scheme to close several lanes on the George Washington Bridge in early September 2013. They had sought probation.
"This is a sad day for the state of New Jersey", and "certainly a sad day for you in particular, Mr. Baroni", U.S. District Court Judge Susan D. Wigenton said, referring to the bridge scandal as "senseless political vendetta" and "outrageous" display of abuse of power.
"It was completely meant to wreak havoc", Wigenton told Baroni. "It only served a punitive objective".
"I know how people parry you", he said.
It was Kelly's infamous email to Wildstein, that it was "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee", that set the plan in motion, prosecutors said.
"It's very clear the culture in Trenton was 'you're either with us or you're not, '" Wigenton said, telling the 44-year-old Kelly that she "got caught up in a culture and an environment that lost its way". "I accept full responsibility for the tone of my emails and text messages". Text messages and emails produced at trial showed Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's increasingly desperate pleas for help being ignored by Kelly and Baroni.
"I let the people in Fort Lee down", Baroni said in federal court in Newark. He liked himself more than he liked me'. "No one else is responsible for my choice". "I was wrong and I am truly sorry".
"I'm not a grudge kind of guy".
Prosecutors insisted on prison time for both defendants, partly due to what they said was a lack of remorse and incidents of perjury during the 7-week trial. "Without her instructions - "Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee" - the lane reduction would never have taken place". "To devote my energies to venom and dislike, it's not my style".
The focus on the drug issue also gives Christie a chance to try to move past negative headlines that have helped fuel his unpopularity in New Jersey. "And then he chose to lie about it", Cortes said, calling Baroni's conduct "brazen, calculated, and a mean-spirited abuse of power" that had "real-life consequences on the people he was supposed to serve".
Christie publicly blamed the scandal as the reason he was passed over as Trump's pick for vice president, and he also got shut out of a spot in the president's Cabinet. Baroni did not speak to reporters after the sentencing, but Kelly said it was a very hard day for her family.
"There is a massive gulf between President Trump's promises to tackle this crisis and the policies this administration has proposed during his first two months in office", said New Hampshire Sen. Christie and the President had lunch in February, but aides on both sides of the lunch said there was no talk of a job.
Kelly and Baroni testified at trial that another Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, convinced them the lane realignment was part of a legitimate traffic study.
Throughout the trial, a slew of individuals-including Kelly, Baroni, and Wildstein-implicated the New Jersey governor in the Bridgegate plot, alleging that not only was he aware of the politically-motivated lane closures but that he participated in a cover-up scheme reportedly involving NY governor Andrew Cuomo. The position was created for Wildstein, according to testimony.
A spokesman for Christie, who was not charged, responded after Kelly's testimony in October that he had "no knowledge prior to or during" the lane realignment. But his version of events - that he was not aware that anyone in his office was involved until months after the fact - was contradicted by testimony from Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein.
Wildstein testified that Christie's subordinates used the Port Authority, the powerful bi-state agency that oversees huge chunks of New York's transportation and commerce infrastructure, as a source of political favors for Democratic politicians whose endorsements he sought.