Federal jurors in Newark on Friday convicted two of Gov. Christie’s former aides of all charges in the Bridgegate scandal.
A judge set sentencing for Feb. 21 for Bill Baroni -- who was the governor’s top official at the Port Authority – and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, on guilty verdicts for conspiracy and fraud, among other counts.
“We are gratified that the members of the jury saw the evidence the way we saw it and reached their verdict of guilty today,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. “This was a long and difficult investigation, and I am so proud of the way the members of my office, the FBI and the Port Authority Inspector General conducted themselves in the course of this case.”
It all stemmed from the notorious closure of two George Washington Bridge access lanes in Fort Lee – which prosecutors said was done without notifying police or Port Authority officials in Manhattan -- beginning the morning on Sept. 9, 2013, the first day of school in the borough.
Christie’s staff contended that a traffic study was being conducted, but authorities said the objective was payback against Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing the governor’s re-election bid.
Emails were considered the most significant evidence.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly, 44, wrote in an Aug. 13 email.
“Got it,” replied David Wildstein, a Port Authority executive and close Christie ally.
Gridlock on local streets finally ended when Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye ordered two lanes reopened on Sept. 13.
Foye called the closures a "hasty and ill-informed decision" that could have endangered lives and violated federal and state law.
Fishman, the U.S. attorney, launched a massive investigation that centered on Baroni – the 44-year-old former deputy executive director of the Port Authority who made the traffic-study claim -- and Wildstein, who issued the closure order.
The result was a sweeping nine-count indictment against Kelly, Baroni and Weinstein.
Wildstein pleaded guilty and testified against Baroni and Kelly as part of his deal with the government.
He testified during the trial that he, Baroni and Christie discussed lane closures during a 9/11 memorial service.
Jurors deliberated less than four days following a six-week trial.
U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton scheduled sentencing for Feb. 21.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee M. Cortes Jr., Vikas Khanna, David W. Feder and Senior Litigation Counsel J Fortier Imbert of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.
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