Crime

Two top aides to Chris Christie found guilty of all charges in Bridgegate scandal

This Friday, a federal jury found two of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s former aides guilty of all charges in the Bridgegate scandal.

Christie’s top official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, and Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, each faced seven counts of conspiracy, fraud and other related charges, with the most serious carrying a maximum of up to 20 years in prison.

From The Huffington Post:

The trouble started on Sept. 9, 2013, when three of the access lanes were shut down on the George Washington Bridge connecting Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey. It’s the busiest bridge in the country. The change created significant problems on the New Jersey side of the bridge and was ordered without notifying police, emergency officials or officials on the New York side of the Port Authority’s leadership.

Christie officials originally tried to claim that the closures were part of a traffic study ― an excuse that was soon debunked. The real motive of messing with the city’s Democratic mayor, who refused to endorse Christie’s re-election bid, was revealed shortly afterward.

The most damning piece of evidence for the political payback scheme was an Aug. 13 email sent by Kelly, when she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” David Wildstein, a Port Authority executive and close Christie ally, replied, “Got it.”

Baroni was fully aware of what closing the lanes would do to Fort Lee. Mark Sokolich, Fort Lee’s mayor, had written to Baroni in November 2010 to complain of ongoing traffic problems.

Although Christie was never charged, the scandal tainted his run for the presidency and the convictions are resurrecting questions about his involvement.

According to testimony from Wildstein, who’s been cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy, he talked to Christie about the lane closures during a September 11 memorial service.

After the verdict, Christie put out a statement saying he was “saddened” by what his staffers did. He continues to deny any involvement.

“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,” Christie said. “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 HuffPo points out, even Christie’s buddy Donald Trump said Christie “knew about it,” referring to the scandal.

According to a Wall Street Journal report from August, top Christie aide Christina Renna said that the Governor lied when he claimed he didn’t know anything about the lane closures.

“He just flat out lied about senior staff and [campaign manager Bill] Stepien not being involved,” Renna allegedly texted to a colleague.

“And if emails are found with the subpoena or ccfg [Chris Christie for Governor] emails are uncovered in discovery if it comes to that it could be bad,” she added.

 Featured image: Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

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