Former Christie allies get prison time in Bridgegate scandal

Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly sentenced Wednesday for their roles in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. (Julio Cortez and Seth Wenig/AP Photos, file)

Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly sentenced Wednesday for their roles in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. (Julio Cortez and Seth Wenig/AP Photos, file)

Two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in politically motivated traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

Former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly will be incarcerated for 18 months.

Both were found guilty in November of wire fraud, conspiracy, and civil rights violations in a plot to create traffic back-ups in Fort Lee to punish Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich, who refused to endorse Christie, a Republican, for re-election.

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Christie was never charged with a crime and denies knowing about the revenge plot.

The sentencing came three and a half years after the lane closures on the New Jersey side of the bridge snarled traffic for four days during the first week of school, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic for miles that posed a risk to public safety, local officials said.

Baroni and Kelly claimed throughout the seven-week trial that they did not know the lane closures were intended as political retaliation. Instead, they testified, they were hoodwinked by a third defendant, David Wildstein, into believing the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic study.

Wildstein, another former Port Authority official and political operative, admitted to being the mastermind behind the fictitious traffic study and pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme.

Wildstein testified against Baroni and Kelly at trial but has not yet been sentenced.

In a packed courtroom Wednesday at the federal building in Newark, both defendants pleaded with Judge Susan Wigenton for a sentence of probation or home confinement in lieu of prison time.

“I was wrong and I am truly sorry,” said Baroni, who ignored pleas for help from Sokolich as the lane closures begot total traffic gridlock in Fort Lee. “I regret more than anything that I allowed myself to get caught up in this and failed to help those who needed me.”

Kelly, who authored the now-infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email, said she was “absolutely embarrassed” by her “insensitive and disrespectful” emails and text messages. She asked the judge to spare her a prison sentence so she could remain at home with her four children.

But Wigenton, undeterred by the defendants’ arguments, doled out prison sentences to both defendants.

“This is a sad day for New Jersey,” Wigenton said.

More than three years in the making, Wednesday’s sentencing closes a long and trying chapter in Christie’s political career.

Bridgegate tanked his approval ratings in New Jersey and became an issue for him, once a rising star on the national political stage, in his failed run for president.

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