A federal jury convicted two former Chris Christie aides of all criminal charges in the recent Bridgegate trial in Newark federal court this morning. The verdict came on the fifth day of jury deliberations after a six week trial that began in September.
The criminal charges involved the misuse of federal funds which were used by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state agency which operates the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey to Manhattan.
Bridget Kelly was Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and Bill Baroni was a former State Senator appointed to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by Christie. Both were among the alleged plotters of a scheme to misuse public resources for a sham traffic study to hide the reason for targeted closings of certain access lanes to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza over four weekday mornings in September 2013.
Kelly and Baroni face up to twenty years in prison but should get far less under the advisory federal sentencing guidelines. Both were convicted largely on the strength of testimony from fellow Christie appointee David Wildstein, who plead guilty in May 2015 to related charges.
Both Kelly and Baroni will remain out on bail pending the sentencing scheduled for February 17, 2017. Customarily the sentencing date is delayed and postponed for various reasons.
Neither Governor Chris Christie nor many of his other aides were charged by federal prosecutors for the actions surrounding or motivating the lane closures.
The defense attorneys for both Kelly and Baroni had objected in recent days to certain jury instructions that intent to engage in political retribution did not need to be found by the jury for it to conclude a crime had occurred. The objections were followed by defense motions for a mistrial. The objections were overruled and the mistrial motion denied by federal judge Susan Wigenton earlier this week.
Both defendants are expected to appeal.