2 Former Aides to Chris Christie Found Guilty in Bridgegate Trial
The jury has been hearing testimonies for the past six weeks.
— -- Two former aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been found guilty on all counts in the so-called Bridgegate trial.
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a former official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who was appointed by Christie, were accused of conspiring to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge for political retaliation.
The jury in Newark deliberated for 20 hours over the course of five days. Federal prosecutors argued that Kelly and Baroni devised the lane closures, under the guise of a traffic study, to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, who refused to endorse Christie, a Republican, for reelection in 2013.
The nine charges against each of the defendants include conspiracy and fraud. Kelly and Baroni could each face a maximum of more than 100 years in prison, though it is unlikely the two would be sentenced to that much time behind bars. The most serious charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Kelly appeared visibly distraught when leaving the courthouse with her attorney, Michael Critchley. Critchley told reporters they will appeal the guilty ruling and repeatedly said Kelly is a "scapegoat."
"We're going to appeal, absolutely," he said, adding that the primary concern was for Kelly's four children. "This is not over, I assure you."
Baroni, on the other hand, left the courthouse smiling and appeared upbeat when making his own statement. He and his lawyer, Michael Baldassare, told reporters they also plan to appeal the verdict.
"I am innocent of these charges," Baroni said, adding that he is looking forward to his appeal. He also thanked his family, friends and legal team for their support.
Kelly and Baroni are due back in court for sentencing on Feb. 21. The judge wields total discretion over whether to sentence them to prison and could even decide to reduce the sentence.
Christie has denied any involvement or knowledge of the plot to close the bridge. He issued a statement in the wake of the verdict, vowing to "set the record straight in the coming days" regarding his alleged role in the scheme.
“On Jan. 9, 2014, I apologized to the people of New Jersey for the conduct exhibited by some members of my administration who showed a lack of respect for the appropriate role of government and for the people we serve. Those people were terminated by me and today, the jury affirms that decision by also holding them responsible for their own conduct," Christie's statement read. "But let me be clear once again, I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments, and had no role in authorizing them. No believable evidence was presented to contradict that fact. Anything said to the contrary over the past six weeks in court is simply untrue. As a former federal prosecutor, I have respected these proceedings and refused to comment on the daily testimony from the trial. I will set the record straight in the coming days regarding the lies that were told by the media and in the courtroom.”
The New Jersey governor has made only a few public appearances since the trial began six weeks ago. He is expected to campaign for Donald Trump on Saturday.
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