Ex-Christie Aide Resentenced To 13 Months In Prison In Bridgegate Scandal

April 24, 2019 - 4:40 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (WCBS 880/AP)  Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former deputy chief of staff was resentenced to 13 months for her role in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton resentenced Bridget Kelly in federal court Wednesday in Newark. Kelly cried as she asked the judge to consider the impact of imprisonment on her children.

"I have lost so much since my conviction, my fourt children have lost so much more. What they have had to endure as a result of this miscarriage of justice is a disgrace," Kelly said after her resentencing. "Every single day I amazed by their fortitude and their strength in the face of adversity."

Kelly and co-defendant Bill Baroni were convicted in 2016 in what prosecutors and a co-conspirator say was a plot to cause traffic jams near the bridge to punish a mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie's reelection.
A federal appeals court last fall tossed some of the counts against Kelly and Baroni but upheld the most serious ones.
Baroni had his sentence reduced from 24 months to 18 months in February and has begun serving his term.
Kelly was initially sentenced to 18 months.

"While my anguish has shaken my faith in our system of justice... I remain as steadfast for the truth as the day this all began," Kelly said outside the courthouse. "The fact that I am here in place of others from the Christie administration and the governor himself, does not prove my guilt it only proves that justice is not blind -- it has favorites, it misses the mark, it misses the truth and it picks winners and losers that are sometimes beyond anyone's control."

Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff in 2013 when, prosecutors alleged, she, Baroni and David Wildstein conspired to close access lanes to the bridge over four days to create gridlock in the town of Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor had declined to endorse Christie, a Republican.

Kelly authored the infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee'' email the month before the lane realignment went into effect.

Baroni, a former New Jersey state senator, was appointed by Christie as deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge as well as tunnels, airports, ports and the World Trade Center.

Wildstein, a high school acquaintance of Christie's who worked for Baroni at the Port Authority, pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution. He was sentenced to probation and currently publishes a website focusing on New Jersey politics.

Kelly and Baroni were convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy and civil rights counts. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the civil rights counts last fall, ruling that a right to intrastate travel is not guaranteed under current federal law.

Christie wasn't charged and denied prior knowledge of the scheme, though that version was contradicted by several witnesses who testified during the trial. The ensuing publicity helped derail Christie's efforts to be the GOP's 2016 presidential nominee. He said at an event this month that to this day he will never fully understand why those lanes were closed.

“As I have said before, I had no knowledge of this scheme prior to or during these lane realignments, and had no role in authorizing them. No credible evidence was ever presented to contradict that fact. Anything said to the contrary is simply untrue,” Christie said in a statement.

Following her resentencing Kelly called her old boss a coward and a bully. She said Christie is the only person that had the power to pull off the lane closure scheme.

"Just because someone has the title of governor doesn't give them the right to mislead others. It's dishonorable and it only shows that person for the coward that he is. You need to know that I will not remain quiet any longer," Kelly said. "Mr. Christie, you are a bully and the days of you calling me a liar and destroying my life are over. The truth will be heard, and for the former governor, that truth will be unescapable."

Kelly's attorneys have argued in court filings that while the actions of their client and Baroni may have been ethically questionable, they weren't illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the bridge was still being used for a public purpose.

They've also contended the trial judge erred when she ruled jurors didn't have to believe the lane realignment was for a political purpose in order to find the defendants guilty.

Kelly is continuing her fight. Her conviction will go before the Supreme Court. Until then the mother of four will stay out of prison while her appeal goes through.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)