A federal judge in Newark, N.J., sentenced two former aides of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday for their role in the 2013 “Bridgegate” lane-closure scandal.
Former Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Bill Baroni was given a two-year sentence; former Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, received 18 months behind bars. Both had faced the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.
Both Baroni and Kelly were found guilty in November 2016 of wire fraud, civil rights deprivation, and conspiracy.
In handing down the sentences on the pair of ex-officials, U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton rejected defense counsels’ pleas for probation and upbraided the two former officials as engaging in “an outrageous display of abuse of power.”
Upon sentencing, a remorseful Baroni said:
“I regret, more than anything, that I allowed myself to get caught up in this and fail to help those who need it. It was my job to protect them and I failed.”
Striking a slightly different tone after an appeal to the judge to avert prison to avoid separation from her four children, Kelly told the court she never “intended to harm anyone” and continued:
“I will not allow myself to be the scapegoat in this case and I look forward to the appeal.”
The 2013 scandal revolved around what prosecutors argued was an act of political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to endorse Christie’s reelection bid.
As the plot unfolded, it emerged Kelly and Baroni had conspired to shut down three local access lanes into the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York over a four-day period in September 2013 to create a massive traffic backlog and cause political havoc for Sokolich.
Former Christie ally and Port Authority official, David Wildstein, was the prosecutions star witness; Wildstein had earlier agreed to cooperate after entering into a plea deal in which he confessed his role.
Although Governor Christie has witnessed former New Jersey officials and close aides consumed by the scandal, he has not been charged. In January, prosecutors revealed no charges would be brought against the governor.
It is expected both Baroni and Kelly will appeal the sentences.
[Reuters] [NJ.com] [CNN] [Photo courtesy AP via NewsWorks]