On Wednesday, two former close associates of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were sentenced to prison time for their roles in Bridgegate. Although this scandal has provoked much laughter from Christie critics, the 2013 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge caused potentially life-threatening traffic snarls, all because Christie (allegedly) wanted revenge on a political rival. Now, Anne Kelly (a top Christie aide) and Bill Baroni (former Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey), have been sentenced after being found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in November for their roles in the scandal.
After a daylong sentencing hearing in a New Jersey courtroom, Kelly and Baroni were sentenced to 18 months and 24 months, respectively, in prison. Each will also have to complete 500 hours of community service. Kelly previously stated that she was scared of what Christie would do if she didn’t cooperate with the lane closures. However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna argued that Kelly played a major part in the scandal (as evidenced by an email, in which she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”):
“It was Bridget Kelly who was the impetus that was behind the crime to create traffic problems in Fort Lee. She green-lighted the idea. Without her approval, the lane reductions never would have occurred. Her role was not tangential. She was a central player.”
U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton chastised the two, calling the crime an “abuse of power.” For Baroni’s part, Wigenton stated he misled a legislative committee when he told them the lane closures were part of a traffic study. Both Kelly and Baroni apologized for their indiscretions and are free on bail until their conviction appeals.
Bridgegate has been a dark cloud hanging over the Christie administration, and while the governor hasn’t faced any charges, the scandal may have cost him a spot in Donald Trump’s cabinet (although it was revealed on Wednesday that he will advise on a panel about the opioid crisis). Despite a lack of formal punishment (so far), Christie still must suffer as Trump’s punching bag, as The Donald seems to take any opportunity he can to poke fun at the New Jersey governor.