New Jersey

Chris Christie's Former Chief of Staff, Port Authority Official Convicted in 'Bridgegate' Trial

The pair face up to 20 years in prison for their role in a political payback scheme that closed two lanes of the George Washington Bridge.

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Cameron Davidson Westend61/Newscom

The former chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a former deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York were convicted Friday on charges related to the politically motivated closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

Bridget Anne Kelly, who served in the Christie administration since 2010, and Bill Baroni of the Port Authority were found guilty on seven charges including conspiracy, fraud and civil rights deprivation. Prosecutors said Baroni and Kelly helped orchestrate the closure of lanes as an act of political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who refused to endorse Christie during the governor's reelection bid in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton set the sentencing date for Feb. 21. Baroni and Kelly face a maximum of 20 years in prison, but are likely to serve far less under federal sentencing guidelines, according to NJ.com.

Emails and text messages released in January of 2014 form the basis of the charges, CNN reported. In one of those emails, Kelly wrote to former Port Authority official David Wildstein: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Most of the political fall-out from Bridgegate will continue to concern Christie. The scandal was a major weight around his neck during the 2016 Republican primaries (though there were plenty of other reasons for voters to dislike Christie, ranging from his unquestioning support of the drug war to his terrible record on fiscal issues), and may have cost him a shot at being Donald Trump's pick for VP.

The Port Authority has so far avoided the same level of blame, even though top officials at the agency were directly involved in the scandal. Maybe that's because a multi-state transportation authority isn't as interesting as a loudmouthed governor, but the Port Authority deserves plenty of scorn for being, as Jim Epstein wrote in Reason in 2014, "a bastion of power, patronage, and bureaucracy that violates commuters and taxpayers on both sides of the bridge every day of every year."

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  1. … will continue to concern Christie. The scandal was a major weight around his neck ….

    Ahem.

    1. Now if all of us Jerseyans could just get him to the GWB and give him a push…

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  2. Baroni and Kelly face a maximum of 20 years in prison

    Are you fucking kidding me

    1. Wheels within wheels. The power of the state rarely grinds the bones of its own, but grind them it does. The travesty is that those out for blood so often get it.

      Can anyone familiar with the law there illuminate whether or not there is judicial discretion in sentencing? What’s the likelihood of a slap on the wrist versus full-on overblown throwing-of-the-book?

      1. Read the article

        1. but are likely to serve far less under federal sentencing guidelines

          This doesn’t really tell us anything. What is expected? I didn’t really think there were any mandatory minimums, but precedents and people familiar with the judge in this case probably can speculate, assuming anyone here follows this case and can shed light on it.

          BLM pulls this same stunt in several states and calls it “protesting” and undoubtedly gets off with nothing on up to community service at the worst.

          1. Yes, protesting the government and using your governmental power are totally the same thing.

            1. Similar crimes require similar punishments. It’s a cornerstone of justice, is it not?

              If you conspire to stop up traffic on purpose, does it really matter which political reasons you did it for? Should we be in the legal business of deciding which brand of wrongthink is worse than the others and more in need of punishment?

              I’m not asking rhetorically either. I really want to know what fellow libertarians think.

              1. I disagree with the premise that the crimes are similar.

                And last time I checked, libertarians did care about reasons for committing crimes, most of them being unhappy with the lack of mens rea requirement for many crimes and happy to differentiate between murder and negligent homicide.

                Regardless, abuse of government power isn’t wrongthink. It’s oppression.

                1. A group of people decide to conspire to stop up traffic. Stopping up traffic is a crime. Conspiring to commit a crime is a crime.

                  Those general circumstances apply to both cases. The two groups did it for different political reasons, but what was done was identical.

                  Is a “hate crime” something that exists? Is it worse to murder someone because you don’t like his race or his politics or because of his affair with your wife?

                  I agree that it’s worse to wield power that can order people to be complicit in your crime (unwitting or not). There’s no doubt about it. Ordering people to be complicit in a misdemeanor should be in the realm of similar jail-time.

                  Wrongthink may have been the wrong word. Still, I disagree with the politics of both groups and their motivations for the crimes they commit. I do not qualify BLM’s traffic-stopping behavior as “not a crime” because they hide behind the right of assembly. The right of assembly doesn’t guarantee a place for it and assembly alone certainly can be used to commit crimes.

                  1. The right of assembly doesn’t guarantee a place for it and assembly alone certainly can be used to commit crimes.

                    Exactly — the right of assembly is only the right of “peaceable” assembly, and blocking traffic is not peaceable.

                2. Um no. Mens rea means you know that you are committing a crime. It has nothing to do with your reasons for doing it.

        2. Damn, OneOut, it’s like you don’t even Hit’n’Run! Ain’t nobody ever read an article, homie.

          1. reading is sooo last century, we just feelz now

  3. Closing a few traffic lanes = prison
    Putting classified info on a private hackable bathroom server = no big deal

    1. Yes, you beat me to it.

    2. I think everybody thought the same thing +/- 1 millisecond of reading this.

      1. I didn’t think that. So maybe it was just everybody who is obsessed with destroying the Clintons?

        1. More of a hobby really.

        2. Yep, it’s an obsession to have enough respect for your country to demand that its leadership be held to the exact same standard of law that the most powerless are.

        3. An interesting progressive perspective from Hugh.

          1. Yes, and moreover, breathtaking in its deep insight and originality!

  4. The Port Authority is “a bastion of power, patronage, and bureaucracy that violates commuters and taxpayers on both sides of the bridge every day of every year.”

    That is unpossible. I mean, it is almost as if Epstein never commuted in NY or NJ. They are the very model on which civil authority should be operated for the convenience and safety of the serfs, um.. I mean citizens.

    1. It should be noted that the PA was formed specifically to avoid the “power, patronage, and bureaucracy” that plagued the state governments at the time. Yeah, somebody bought that.

    2. I have no reason to defend the PA, but the sheer volume of people, roads, bridges, tunnels, trains, busses and ferries they have to deal with, not to mention the unions, makes me glad I’m not involved in their management.

  5. The pair face up to 20 years in prison for their role in a political payback scheme that closed two lanes of the George Washington Bridge.

    Wait, what? I’m all for smearing corrupt politicians all over the road… but 20 years for this? That’s excessive.

    1. They could get 20 years for what is essentially a prank. But deliberately violating national security laws, exposing sensitive information to foreign powers, and destroying evidence (among other things) in order to hide your pay to play corruption selling State Department access and approvals is just no big deal, because “EMAILS HURR DURR!”

      1. If you’re a small fish, you don’t have voluble engines in the media to twist your crimes into something else. The wealthy, powerful, and crooked can still be so connected that nobody dares touch them.

        Also, don’t forget the conspiracy of the patriarchy to forgive anyone who possesses a vagina for just about any crime with an “oh, you!”

      2. Were there any first responders held up in the traffic? No idea here, but could be relevant.

    2. Especially in light of the DOJ telling the FBI not to even investigate the Clinton crime syndicate.

      1. I went to breitbart today because I couldn’t find anyone else covering the latest on the email/Clinton foundation investigations, and there’s an article based on quadruple hearsay saying that the doj put pressure on the NYPD to not go public and name names about what they discovered on Weiner’s laptop, so the NYPD dumped it all on the fbi, thus the comey letter.

    3. “That’s excessive”

      ?

      ?

      ?

      Not enough politicians get punished for their crimes, so that makes me want to be especially punitive.

      But you’re right.

    4. Up to 20 years, but they will probably get a few months and some probation. Wouldn’t surprise me if they got no jail time at all.

      1. Oh, they’ll get some jail time. Christie’s throwing them under the bus isn’t complete without it.

        1. Ha. I see what you did there, even though it was probably unintentional.

    5. Emergency medical responders were delayed and a woman died. Sure, the old bat was probably already dead, but still, fuck these goons. You take a cheap shot that affects the lives of thousands, you get to pay for those thousands of lives you affected. And they did it on the taxpayer dime.

      Seriously, this level punishment needs to happen more often.

  6. Too bad for these 2 suckers that Comey wasn’t around with his “no reasonable prosecutor” handbook to bail them out.

  7. Not too long ago, somebody was telling me Chris Christie would make a great US Attorney General.

    Fucking over random taxpayers in order to pursue a political vendetta makes him a perfect fit for the job.

    1. Yeah I hope this rises up to bite that fat fuck in his plump ass.

    2. I also think he’d make a spectacularly effective attorney general, just like LBJ was a spectacularly effective President.

  8. They could get 20 years for what is essentially a prank.

    Crimes committed under color of authority, in pursuit of a political agenda.. Fuck ’em. The real tragedy is that not nearly enough people are prosecuted for “pranks” like this.

    1. Egg-fucking-zaclty,

  9. So, it is possible to go to jail for politically motivated crimes.

    Well…at least if you are not the officeholder themselves, anyway.

  10. “Bridget goes to Prison”

    1. Of course the haven’t been sentenced yet, and can appeal.

      1. Bridget goes to Prison.

        I wonder what sort of movie that would be.

        1. I’d watch it.

        2. Christie would finally lose some weight.

  11. OK, so abusing government control of public resources for petty political disputes is can get you 20 years in the slammer. Let’s keep that in mind for the next Federal budget battle.

    http://freebeacon.com/politics/shutdown-theater/

  12. Is joe from lowell arbutus, now?

    I can’t keep up.

    1. Who the fuck knows anymore?

  13. While I’m all for holding politicians and their entourage accountable, this is a little like letting your dog poop in the house with impunity for 5 years, and then when he does it in front of your mother-in-law, you bring him to the pound to be gassed.

    Maybe they deserved it, but this is not an effective way to police corruption. If they had done this in the service of a less controversial politician this case would never have made it to court.

  14. Regarding the idea that Bridgegate is equivalent to Occupy Wallstreet or BLM protests, let us look at a different pair of test cases:

    1) A guy ambushes a woman in a dark parking lot and rapes her. He leaves her lying in the parking lot when he is done.

    2) A police officer pulls a woman over for a “driving violation”, tells her to pull into a dark parking lot, and then rapes her. He leaves her lying in the parking lot, but before leaving reminds her that he is a cop and no one will believe her if she files a complaint.

    Clearly, crimes committed under color of authority are no worse than show those committed by the general public. Right? Rape is rape, right? End of story, right?

    1. You are correct, sir.

  15. No sympathy for these government goons.

    We just need more prosecutions against government officials for their corruption.

  16. The pair face up to 20 years in prison for their role in a political payback scheme that closed two lanes of the George Washington Bridge.

    Delicious.

  17. RE: hris Christie’s Former Chief of Staff, Port Authority Official Convicted in ‘Bridgegate’ Trial
    The pair face up to 20 years in prison for their role in a political payback scheme that closed two lanes of the George Washington Bridge.

    I guess those two lanes were express lanes to prison.
    One can only speculate what the toll was.

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  20. A maximum of 20 years in prison. Yet Hillary skates?

  21. Hurting hundreds of thousands of citizens to needle one politician.

    They should be assigned to work toll booths in NJ through the winter and hot summers at the worst overnight shifts ? for minimum wage ? and face and handout apology cards to motorists ? not waste taxpayer dollars keeping them in prison for $50k-$150k per year.

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