News & Notes: Former aides to Christie convicted over Bridgegate scandaland Hannah Waxman | Nov 8, 2016
Two of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s former aides were found guilty of all charges related to the 2013 Bridgegate scandal in a federal court on Friday. Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly had been charged with seven counts of conspiracy and wire fraud. Their sentencing is set for Feb. 21. David Wildstein, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive, pleaded guilty and served as the prosecution’s key witness in the proceedings.
Christie is an ex-officio trustee for the University.
Baroni worked as Christie’s top official at the Port Authority, and Kelly was Christie’s deputy chief of staff. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. United States Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman commented to the New York Times that while recommending a sentence, prosecutors will likely take into account that Baroni and Kelly did not testify honestly to their crimes.
The scandal known as Bridgegate began on Sept. 9, 2013, when three access lanes of the George Washington Bridge connecting Fort Lee, N.J. to New York City were shut down for five days, according to the New York Times. After the initial controversy, Christie’s aides first claimed that the closings were due to a traffic study being conducted for the Port Authority. However, later evidence, such as emails sent from their accounts, revealed that the closures were intended to target Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not endorse Christie’s bid for re-election. An Aug. 13 email from Kelly to David Wildstein, another Christie official, read, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” which suggested that the closings were pre-planned and calculated. Wildstein plead guilty to charges of fraud and is facing 20 to 27 months in prison, according to the New York Times.
Christie has claimed repeatedly that he had no knowledge of the plan to close the lanes, and, while he served as a witness in Kelly’s defense, was condemned as a bully by his former employee. The scandal was largely considered responsible at least in part for ruining Christie’s chances at a bid for the Republican nomination for presidential candidate.
The prosecutor for the case, Lee Cortes, claimed that the lane closings were a scheme orchestrated by public officials to further Christie’s political aims, according to NJ.com.
“I’m saddened by this case and I’m saddened about the choices made by Bill Baroni, Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein. Today’s verdict does not change this for me,” Christie said in a statement on Nov. 4.