FILE - This photo combo taken Nov. 3, 2016, shows Bridget Kelly, left, who was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, right, who was Christie's former top appointee at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, entering court in Newark, N.J. Prosecutors wrote to a judge Monday, March 27, 2017, that Kelly and Baroni committed perjury on the witness stand during their fall 2016 corruption trial, and shouldn't be given any leniency during their sentencing scheduled Wednesday, March 29. (AP Photos/Julio Cortez, File)

Ex-Christie aides to be sentenced in New Jersey bridge case

March 29, 2017 - 9:24 am

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie will be sentenced Wednesday for their roles in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal, the closing chapter of a traffic jam that sank the Republican's presidential aspirations.

Bridget Kelly, 44, and Bill Baroni, 45, were convicted in November of all the counts against them, which included wire fraud, conspiracy and misusing the bridge for improper purposes.

The government's star witness, David Wildstein, testified that he and the co-defendants plotted to cause gridlock to retaliate against the Democratic mayor of nearby Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie's re-election.

The scandal derailed Christie's presidential aspirations and likely cost him a chance to be President Donald Trump's running mate.

Questions remain over when, and how much, Christie knew about the plan to realign access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge's upper level. The bi-level bridge is considered the busiest in the country.

Baroni and Kelly face 37 to 46 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, though both have filed briefs arguing that they should receive some combination of probation, home confinement and community service.

Prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton not to show leniency because, they said, Kelly and Baroni provided "flagrantly false testimony" during the trial.

Christie said the judge would do what is appropriate. "It's not my role or anybody else's role other than the judge in the courtroom to pass sentence on people who have committed crimes," Christie said on NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday.

Christie was in Washington, where he's scheduled to appear with Trump for a discussion about opioid addiction.

Fort Lee was plunged into gridlock for four days in September 2013. Text messages and emails produced at trial showed Mayor Mark Sokolich's increasingly desperate pleas for help being ignored by Kelly and Baroni.

They testified that the "radio silence" treatment was ordered by Wildstein, a former political blogger and classmate of Christie's who was hired as the director of interstate capital projects at the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. The position was created for Wildstein, according to testimony.

At the time of the traffic jams, Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff and Baroni was his appointee to the Port Authority, overseeing Wildstein as deputy executive director. Baroni testified that Wildstein was viewed as Christie's enforcer, and several Port Authority officials testified that he was almost universally disliked at the agency.

Christie was not charged with any wrongdoing. But his version of events — that he was not aware that anyone in his office was involved until months after the fact — was contradicted by testimony from Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein.

In addition to focusing on dozens of text messages and emails exchanged between the co-conspirators — including Kelly's infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email — testimony at the trial painted an unflattering portrait of the Christie administration's modus operandi.

Christie was described as cursing and throwing a water bottle at Kelly over an apparently innocent question and another time leaving a profane and threatening voicemail for a county officeholder who had angered him.

Wildstein testified that Christie's subordinates used the Port Authority, the l bistate agency that oversees huge chunks of New York's transportation and commerce infrastructure, as a source of political favors for Democratic politicians whose endorsements he sought.


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