A former ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday for his role in the Bridgegate scandal.
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s one time deputy chief of staff was also jailed Former was sentenced to spend 18 months behind bars by a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey.
Bill Baroni, an ex-Port Authority executive, was the first of two former Christie cronies to learn their fate. Former top aide Bridget Anne Kelly is expected to be sentenced in Newark Federal Court later Wednesday. Last November, the pair were convicted for wire fraud and conspiracy among other charges relating to the September 2013 lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.
“I regret, more than anything, that I allowed myself to get caught up in this,” an emotional Baroni told the court before he was sentenced.
“I was wrong. I am truly sorry. And I’ve waited three years to say that.”
A distraught Bridget Kelly [left], being comforted outside court after her conviction on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy, Nov 2016
The infamous bridge closure of
Federal prosecutors told Judge Susan Wigenton they were seeking a prison term of two years for Baroni.
Before announcing his sentence, Wigenton tore into the longtime Christie associate.
“What occurred in Sept. 2013 was an outrageous display of abuse of power,” the judge said. “Without your participation, this debacle would not have happened.”
The sentencing of Kelly will bring to a close a case that rocked the Christie administration and all but derailed the presidential bid by Gov Christie the once considered the Republican front runner.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christie with his one time deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly
Chris Christie, in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal, has repeatedly denied having prior knowledge of the lane closures on the bridge
Baroni, 45, and Kelly, 44, were found guilty of all charges in the plot to create a traffic nightmare in Fort Lee as revenge for its mayor’s refusal to endorse Christie’s re-election.
A Newark jury ruled last November that the pair played an integral role in the scheme to close several lanes on the George Washington Bridge in early September 2013.
Prosecutors said the plan was masterminded by Port Authority official David Wildstein.
It was Wildstein, an old high school pal of Christie’s, who received the infamous email from Kelly that prosecutors say set the plot in motion: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Wildstein pleaded guilty and testified against Kelly and Baroni under a cooperation deal.
Christie, who was never charged in the case, has furiously denied that he was ever aware of the scheme. But Wildstein testified that Christie knew about the politically motivated lane closures as they were happening.
In a TV appearance hours before Wednesday’s sentencing, Christie refused to say whether Kelly and Baroni should receive prison time.
Gov Christie, himeslf a former federal prosecutor for NJ said:“The judge will do what the judge believes appropriate,” Christie said on NBC’s “Today” show. “And it’s not my role or anybody else’s role, other than the judge in that courtroom, to pass sentence on people that have committed crimes,” said Christie who during his tenure as a fed prosecutors, developed a reputation for hardnosed approach to crime fighting.
Prosecutors said in a blistering pre-sentencing report that the pair committed perjury and deserved no leniency.
Prosecution star witness was convicted former Port Authority official David Wildstein, who pled guilty to masterminding the plot. He has testified against the former Christie allies, who in turn pointed fingers at him
The defendants had testified that they believed the lanes were closed down as part of a Port Authority traffic study.
“They lied about what they knew, what they said, and what they did,” prosecutors wrote.
“They evaded, obstructed, and gave alternative explanations that bore no relation whatsoever to the truth.”
Making the case for no-jail sentences, the defendants’ lawyers requested that their clients were unwitting pawns in a scheme drummed up by David Wildstein. When Kelly took the stand she argued that she had no reason to doubt that the lane closures were initiated as part a traffic study planned by Wildstein, she said. In Aug. 2013, at the behest of Wildstein, Kelly said she told Christie about the planned study and warned him that it was likely to cause
NJ Gov, Chris Christie, knew about George Washington bridge closing, a month ahead of event – Former Dep Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, breaks down on the stand
congestion in Fort Lee. Her testimony seemed to implicate Christie who has repeated denied that he had any knowledge or involvement in the lane closures.
“He didn’t really react,” Kelly claimed. “He said that’s fine.”
But Christie did ask about the administration’s “relationship” with Sokolich., Kelly said.
“I didn’t know,” Kelly testified. “I really didn’t know.”
Throughout her testimony, Kelly portrayed herself as a political scapegoat. In the lead-up to the lane closures, she said, she was overwhelmed with her new job as a top Christie aide and frightened to incur his wrath.