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Former Christie Allies Convicted In N.J. ‘Bridgegate’ Trial

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Former Christie Allies Convicted In N.J. ‘Bridgegate’ Trial

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Chris Christie Bridgegate

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two former allies of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were convicted on Friday for their roles in the “Bridgegate” lane closure scandal, following a six-week trial that served to further tarnish the Republican’s damaged reputation.

Bridget Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were found guilty in Newark federal court on all counts, the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey said on Twitter.

Kelly and Baroni were convicted of fraud, conspiracy and depriving the residents of Fort Lee, New Jersey, of their civil rights.

Christie, who has repeatedly denied any advance knowledge of the scheme, is a top adviser for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“Let me be clear once again, I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments, and had no role in authorizing them,” Christie said in a statement following the verdict.

“Anything said to the contrary over the past six weeks in court is simply untrue.”

The scandal has dogged Christie, once seen as a rising political star and a potential presidential nominee before his campaign for the White House failed this year.

The two officials were accused of shutting down access lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 in Fort Lee, New Jersey, creating a massive days-long traffic jam to punish the town’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, for declining to endorse Christie’s reelection campaign.

The bridge, which connect New Jersey to Manhattan, is one of the country’s busiest.

Lawyers for Kelly and Baroni vowed to appeal.

“This is not over,” Michael Critchley, Kelly’s lawyer, said outside the courthouse, with his arm around a weeping Kelly. He said the judge had erred during jury instructions.

Defense lawyers were furious when U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton told jurors during deliberations in response to a question that they could convict Kelly and Baroni on conspiracy even if the act itself was not “intentionally punitive toward Mayor Sokolich.”

Wigenton said prosecutors did not have to prove motive, even though their case had revolved around the political retribution.

“By answering the way you’re answering, you’re directing a verdict of guilty,” an angry Critchley told Wigenton on Tuesday.

Baroni’s lawyer, Michael Baldassare, told reporters on Friday the case was a “disgrace” and said the conviction would be overturned.

“I am innocent of these charges,” a smiling Baroni said.

Kelly and Baroni’s co-conspirator, former Port Authority official and confessed mastermind David Wildstein, pleaded guilty and appeared as the government’s star witness, detailing how the three schemed to pay back Sokolich, a Democrat.

But Wildstein also implicated Christie, saying he and Baroni discussed the lane closures with the governor while they were ongoing. Christie, Wildstein testified, laughed at the notion that Sokolich was frustrated by the traffic.

At the time, Christie was eyeing a presidential run, and his aides believed that securing the backing of Democratic officials would burnish his national reputation, according to trial testimony.

Kelly, who took the stand in her defense, testified she had discussed the lane closures with Christie a month beforehand, though she said she thought at the time they were part of a legitimate traffic study.

Legal experts have said it is unlikely Christie would face any criminal consequences based on the trial testimony.

Kelly and Baroni’s lawyers argued that Wildstein had orchestrated the plot himself and told them he was conducting a traffic study. Wildstein said on the stand the three of them knew all along that the study was a bogus cover story.

Prosecutors showed jurors numerous exchanges that Kelly and Baroni each had with Wildstein, who operated as a liaison between Baroni at the Port Authority and Kelly in the governor’s office.

Those included Kelly’s now-infamous email to Wildstein that prosecutors said launched the scheme, in which she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by James Dalgleish)

IMAGE: Peter Stevens via Flickr

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11 Comments

  1. Jinmichigan November 4, 2016

    Yeah they are all innocent. Right. It was a traffic study after all. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 4, 2016

      That was one hell of a traffic study.

      Reply
      1. cthetruth November 4, 2016

        Four of us were stuck in that mess for seven long hours at a complete standstill. Sadly, Christie will get a pass, while those under him will take the fall. He is despicable!

        Reply
        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 4, 2016

          He may get a pass, but it will be temporary. Retribution from another Source has a way with catching up with us, one way or another.

          Reply
          1. cthetruth November 4, 2016

            Hope you are correct, because he deserves retribution. You know what really bothers me? This man was a prosecutor. If you can endanger your constituents lives by this childish show of power without empathy, what did you do for a power play as a prosecutor?

            Reply
    2. johninPCFL November 4, 2016

      The results of the study are in now:
      “When you intentionally block traffic and delay emergency responders getting in to save people, you can go to jail.”
      Now we’ll see if Christie is above the law.

      Reply
  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 4, 2016

    Euphemistic responses from the Right, tepid endorsements followed by dis-endorsements followed by re-endorsements—when will the madness that has gripped the GOP end??
    By now, if the Right Wing fanatics believe in fair-play and honor the notion of Justice, they should be clamoring “Lock Them Up!” in light of Christie’s revenge-seeking miscreant squad.
    It’s time we put Trump’s Tax Evasion on trial, and look past his silly refrain that he is under a perpetual audit that extends into eternity which up to now has freed him from prosecution—something the ordinary citizen would NEVER be allowed to get away with.

    Justice has been severely abused by Trump, Christie, and the GOP.

    Reply
  3. opinioned1 November 4, 2016

    Crispy Cream is moments away from a stint in jail. With any luck he can share a cell with Trump, once Trump is found guilty of fraud at trump U, or guilty of bribery from illegal contributions to Pam Bondi in Fl. You recall, the fine he paid with money from the Trump charity, the same one he used to pay for his 6` portrait?
    Two crooks in a 8X10. Almost sounds like a song…

    Reply
  4. Jon November 4, 2016

    CC is using his Glorious Leader’s defense ——- everyone else is lying. Believe me. Let’s see who is naive enough to buy that.

    Reply
  5. ivory69690@yahoo.com November 5, 2016

    one tends to use the words a lot YOU BIG FAT LIER this fits this beached whale like a very big glove . this clown wants to say he knew nothing (yes he is stupid ) but he knew every thing . the few people he had in his office and he knew all that was going on ( for if the people that worked for him didn’t inform him of every thing there would be hell to pay ) the biggest joke of all is this clown wanted to run the USA . the ATT. Gen. and DA should go after him like he went after all those he had cases on while he was a DA and with the same stand he did (knowing the people were lying to him (as he is doing now ) make him pay and stand trial like the so many he was so proud of when he took them down and locked them up after he cut through their lies . time to cut through the beached whale lies and bring the truth out and make him pay for it .

    Reply
  6. ivory69690@yahoo.com November 5, 2016

    when Hillary gets in the house she should start cleaning house and country . and the thing she should do is not a payback at all it would be doing the job of the Pres. tell the ATT. GEN. to investigate the leaks with the FBI and also that RUDY clown and who told his things from the FBI . also the same team investigate the N.J. beached whale . also investigate all those who wasted the big money and time on the Benghazi and the emails (that thy came up with nothing on ) check in on all the inside workers and the work that thy have been doing . and get all these clowns in office that worked so hard on B/S (admitted it was just to make Hillary look bad ) get to the root of all this wasted time and money of the country . put them all under investigation and set them each down to be questioned until the answers come out . and then the DEM party should start the first day she is in office start advertising with the DEMS campaign money to start ones in office that will work to get things done not blocking every thing . already the GOP gang of pinhead idiots are saying that thy will block a SCJ to put a judge in there . first thy say let the next Pres. sit that judge (a LIE ) for now thy say thy will block anyone she put up for the sit . the Pres. has to start telling the people to get the GOP out of office so things can get done and not blocking everything ..and then make sure the people of the country know the reason the ACA isn’t doing as well as it should be doing is the fact all the GOP Governors of the different states have block the chance of the people to get and try to use the ACA . 20 million people have it today if all let their states use the ACA one could see over 100 million using it . with those numbers the prices can go lower for cost . simply the more the merrier . get the ones out of offices that are blocking these things for the people . get started fast cleaning the country and the house Hillary

    Reply

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