Two former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were sentenced to prison Wednesday for their roles in a conspiracy to shut down the nation’s busiest bridge — an act of political retribution dubbed “Bridgegate” that is thought to have seriously damaged Christie’s career, though he himself was not charged with a crime.
William E. Baroni Jr., 45, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, and Bridget Anne Kelly, 44, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, was sentenced to 18 months, according to the Justice Department. The two were convicted late last year of conspiring to tie up traffic on the George Washington Bridge to get revenge on a local mayor who refused to support Christie’s re-election bid.
“We are satisfied that the sentences handed down today are a just result,” acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “The defendants’ unlawful use of their government positions and government resources to settle a petty political score was a flagrant breach of their duty to the public and reflected a callous disregard for the welfare of the people of New Jersey. These sentences are fair and appropriate.”
The case was notable in its own right but mostly because of the string of allegations it produced against New Jersey’s governor — once a rising Republican star who ran for president and was thought to be a contender for a position in President Trump’s White House. On Wednesday, Christie, tapped by Trump to lead an effort to battle America’s opioid crisis, appeared at a roundtable discussion with the president in the White House.
Christie has said he did not know about his aides’ conspiracy to halt traffic on the bridge, though one of prosecutors’ key witnesses testified he told the governor about it and that the governor laughed. At their trial, prosecutors sought to cast Kelly and Baroni as devotees of Christie. During the Republican primary, in which Trump and Christie were rivals, Trump had said of Christie’s role in Bridgegate: “He totally knew about it.”
Asked about the sentences before they were imposed Wednesday, Christie told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “The judge will do what the judge believes is appropriate, Matt. And it’s not my role or anybody else’s role, other than the judge in that courtroom, to pass sentence on people who have committed crimes.” A spokesman declined to comment further.
Michael Baldassare, a lawyer for Baroni, said his client would appeal his conviction. “This case is entering the next phase, and moving toward clearing Mr. Baroni’s name,” he said. A lawyer for Kelly could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.