Two former allies of Chris Christie were found guilty of all charges Friday for their roles in the Bridgegate scheme that decimated the New Jersey governor’s White House bid.
Former Christie top aide Bridget Anne Kelly and ex-Port Authority executive Bill Baroni face up to 20 years for the most serious charge of wire fraud.
The 12-person jury took five days to convict the Christie cronies on all nine counts.
Kelly, 44, began weeping immediately after the verdict was announced. Baroni, also 44, showed no emotion.
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Newark federal prosecutors presented an avalanche of evidence in the six-week trial, including text messages and emails showing that Baroni and Kelly had communicated about the petty political revenge plot before and during its implementation.
The pair, along with former Port Authority official David Wildstein, concocted a scheme to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich because the Democrat had declined to endorse Christie's reelection.
Evidence showed that Wildstein, with Kelly's go-ahead and Baroni's approval, reduced the lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge for four days in September 2013, paralyzing the town.
Kelly and Baroni's defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued throughout the six-week trial that their clients were victims of Wildstein, a liar with unbridled ambition, by his own admission.
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Wildstein gave eight days of critical testimony, taking the stand under a cooperation agreement with the government. He said he saw Kelly's orders as coming from the governor — including her notorious August 2013 command, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Wildstein said he and Baroni helped create a "cover story" regarding a study of traffic safety patterns on the bridge.
Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty for his role in the plot, has yet to be sentenced.
Kelly and Baroni both said they had been tricked by Wildstein into believing a legitimate traffic study was underway on the GWB — not a petty political revenge scheme.
Kelly and Baroni had a second defense: that the wrong people were on trial. Christie's presence was felt throughout the case, though he never was called to the stand.
Bridgegate defendants ask judge to advise jury to consider motive
Kelly testified that she told Christie about the lane closures before and during their implementation. She said she felt as if she were living in an "alternate universe" after questions mounted about the closures and her colleagues in the governor's office began feigning ignorance.
Baroni recalled a conversation with Christie during the closures at an event at the 9/11 memorial. Wildstein had a different version of the same conversation and said Christie "laughed" when informed of the gridlock, which was political in nature.
Wildstein, Kelly and other witnesses gave ample testimony indicating Christie lied when he said in a December press conference that no one in his office was involved in the closures.
Few witnesses had positive things to say about the governor. He was portrayed as a hotheaded bully who used every arm of government for his own political ambition. Under Christie, the Port Authority — a bi-state agency dedicated to maintaining bridges, tunnels and airports in the New York area — became a powerful tool to curry favor and punish Christie's enemies.
Jury asks judge about Kelly and Baroni's Bridgegate motives
In one outrageous case, Wildstein boasted of his idea to have Christie's office send flags flown over the 9/11 memorial to key presidential primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Kelly said she was "scared" of Christie. In one instance, he became enraged at her management of a press conference, hurled a water bottle at her and barked "What am I, a fu--ing game show host?" she said.
The trial even ensnared Gov. Cuomo. Wildstein, Kelly and former Port Authority Vice Chair Scott Rechler testified that the governor told the head of the PA, Pat Foye, to "lay off" an inquiry into the real reason for the closures and green light a statement saying a traffic study had been conducted.
Cuomo denied he had any involvement in the Bridgegate scandal.
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