Christie, above it all; he skates while his aides head to prison
- Author: Leroy Wright Apr 02, 2017,
Apr 02, 2017, 8:27
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) Lawmakers who investigated the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal and the Democratic mayor who was targeted in the scheme said on Wednesday the sentencing of two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie marked a sad end to the case. A third former Christie ally, Port Authority official David Wildstein, testified that he and Baroni had bragged to the governor about "tremendous" traffic while the lane closures were underway. Found guilty on all counts of conspiracy, fraud, and civil-rights violations last November for their involvement in the 2013 George Washington Bridge scandal, a USA district judge sentenced Baroni and Kelly to 24 and 18 months in prison, respectively.
They face up to 46 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, although both have filed papers requesting probation.
Baroni and Kelly will be allowed to remain free on bail while they appeal their convictions.
Kelly and Baroni were convicted on November 4 of conspiracy, wire fraud and other charges. The four-day closures caused major gridlock in the town.
Kelly entered the courtroom before Baroni was sentenced.
Wildstein also admitted of planning the plot and said that Kelly and Baroni helped him carry it out.
Before handing down the sentences, U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton said she believed Baroni deserved more blame than Kelly for the 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.
The sentencing comes months after Baroni and Kelly were found guilty of crimes that included conspiracy and fraud.
During six weeks of testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys described how the Christie administration showered Democratic officials with treats from the Port Authority "goody bag" in a bid to court endorsements to burnish the governor's bipartisan bona fides.
But, when the pair were sentenced Wednesday, they were given different jail terms. My responsibility is to the taxpayers of Fort Lee. During the Republican primary, in which Trump and Christie were rivals, Trump had said of Christie's role in Bridgegate: "He totally knew about it".
The commission was rolled out as part of a new office led by Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner, whose father Christie prosecuted in his former role as USA attorney.
Kelly and Baroni were convicted in November over lane closures near the busy George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey and NY.
They deliberately ignored Sokolich's pleas for help during the week of the lane closures and Baroni covered up the true objective of the scheme by insisting that it was part of a traffic study.
Kelly testified that Christie approved what she told him was a traffic study proposed by Wildstein.
"The judge will do what the judge believes is appropriate", said Christie, who was in Washington for a White House event.
The scandal derailed Christie's presidential aspirations and may have cost him a chance to be then-GOP nominee Trump's running mate - a role Christie openly courted.
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. Witnesses at a fall trial alleged Christie knew about the plan beforehand.
Kelly, the governor's 44-year-old former chief of staff, provided one of the most damning pieces of evidence in an email she wrote saying: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee".