US & World

Bridgegate: Christie aides Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly jailed


Bill Baroni arrives for sentencing at federal court in Newark, New Jersey.Image copyright

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Baroni is sentenced to two years in prison and 500 hours of community service

Two former associates of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have been jailed for their role in a political revenge plot dubbed Bridgegate.

Ex-Port Authority executive Bill Baroni was sentenced to two years for closing lanes on a busy New York City bridge.

Former Christie aide Bridget Kelly was handed a prison sentence of 18 months for her role in the 2013 scandal.

The traffic jam was arranged to target a local mayor who decided not to endorse Mr Christie’s re-election bid.

Kelly and Baroni were convicted in November on counts including wire fraud, conspiracy and misusing the bridge for improper purposes.

On Wednesday, Baroni told the judge he regretted his actions and that he had “failed”.

The fall and fall of Chris Christie

Chris Christie aides found guilty of ‘Bridgegate’ lane closures

“I regret more than anything that I allowed myself to get caught up in this and fail to help those who need it,” Baroni said.

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Ms Kelly testified that Governor Christie knew of the lane closures in advance

Baroni, 45, was the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees airports, tunnels and bridges in the New York area.

Christie aides initially tried to explain the four days of gridlock in September 2013 on the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York City as a legitimate traffic study.

Both Kelly and Baroni testified in court that Mr Christie had known in advance about the lane closures on the country’s busiest span.

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.”

But Mr Christie denied any knowledge of the political plot and was not charged.

A third aide who has already pleaded guilty, David Wildstein, testified that Mr Christie had laughed about the traffic jam during a 9/11 memorial service two days after the lanes were blocked.

Baroni’s defence lawyers argued that his long career in public service warranted leniency.

But Assistant US Attorney Lee Cortes said Baroni should have known better and alerted authorities to the plot instead of helping to cover it up.

US District Court Judge Susan Wigenton said Baroni deserved some prison time for what she called “an outrageous display of abuse of power”.

Baroni will be allowed out on bail while he appeals his conviction.

He was also sentenced to 500 hours of community service.

The scandal was widely perceived to have contributed to Mr Christie’s failure in his 2016 bid for the White House.

On the same day his aides were sentenced, Mr Christie was appointed by President Donald Trump to lead a federal task force on the opioid crisis in America.

When asked on Wednesday before the sentencing whether Baroni and Kelly should go to jail, Mr Christie said: “The judge will do what the judge believes is appropriate.”


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