Two former allies of Chris Christie were convicted of public-corruption charges related to the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge, capping a scandal that derailed the New Jersey governor’s political career and exposed a brazen side of Trenton’s political machinery.

Bill Baroni Prison, Community Service and Probation by Syndicated News SNN.BZ on Scribd

Bridget Anne Kelly Prison and Probation by Syndicated News SNN.BZ on Scribd

Former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were sentenced to prison Wednesday for engineering lane closures at the George Washington Bridge as alleged retaliation against a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse the governor.

Bill Baroni, who served as deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will spend two years behind bars and must do 500 hours of community service. His co-conspirator, Bridget Anne Kelly, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus a year of probation. Both said they’ll file appeals.

“I regret more than anything that I allowed myself to get caught up in this,” Baroni told U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton. “I failed.”


Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni

Bridget Anne Kelly

Bridget Anne Kelly


US vs William Baroni Jr and Bridget Anne Kelly by Syndicated News SNN.BZ on Scribd

A New Jersey jury convicted Bridget Kelly, a former aide to the Republican governor, and Bill Baroni, a former executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, on all counts for their roles in what prosecutors said was a plot to create traffic jams to punish a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t endorse Mr. Christie for re-election.

The ex-staffer for Gov. Chris Christie accused of ordering the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 panicked and asked a colleague to delete a damning email as the scandal became public, her colleague testified Thursday.

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Sentencing was set for Feb. 21. Attorneys for both defendants said they plan to appeal.

Mr. Christie wasn’t charged with a crime and wasn’t called to testify. Yet for much of the six-week trial, the focus was less on the defendants than it was on the horse-trading and hardball tactics that many said dominate Trenton politics under the governor.

Gov. Christie speaking with Bridget Anne Kelly in happier times.

The testimony further dented the reputation of Mr. Christie, who has operated under a cloud of scandal since the lane closures occurred in September 2013. The governor, once considered a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, failed to gain traction in the race as his approval rating in New Jersey fell from over 60% at the time of the closures to just over 20% today.

Both the prosecution and defense called witnesses who recounted conversations they had with Mr. Christie about the matter, casting doubt over his repeated insistence that he had no knowledge of the lane closures before or as they happened. Several witnesses described a culture in which Mr. Christie’s administration and gubernatorial campaign were interconnected, with the governor’s office often using public resources to garner political support.

Trial testimony and documents referred to resources from the Port Authority, the sprawling bi-state agency that manages the bridge, as a “goody bag.”

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Both NJ officials, William E. Baroni, Jr. and Bridget Anne Kelly were found guilty of all charges

“It was a reference to all of the things that the Port Authority had available, all the resources the Port Authority had available to the governor’s office that could be helpful to Governor Christie,” testified David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for his role in the lane closures. Mr. Christie wanted to get credit for these perks, he said, which included jobs, money and steel from the World Trade Center.

Mr. Wildstein even suggested using flags flown over the World Trade Center site to further Mr. Christie’s presidential bid in key states.

In a statement Friday, Mr. Christie, who is head of the transition team for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, reiterated that he had no knowledge of the lane closures before or while they happened, and had no role in authorizing them.

“Anything said to the contrary over the past six weeks in court is simply untrue,” Mr. Christie said.

Michael Baldassare, an attorney representing Mr. Baroni, called the trial a disgrace, and criticized the U.S. Attorney’s office for its decisions on who to charge. “They should have had belief in their case to charge powerful people, and they did not,” he said.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said he charged defendants whom, based on evidence available in May of 2015, he knew he could convict. He declined to comment on current cases or investigations.

Prosecutors argued that the federal crime the defendants committed was using Port Authority resources, and particularly the bridge, to exact political retribution. They argued that Ms. Kelly and Mr. Baroni had conspired with Mr. Wildstein to close local-access lanes at the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, N.J., with Manhattan. Prosecutors said the closed lanes and toll booths paralyzed traffic in Fort Lee, ensnaring school children and ambulances. They argued the defendants ignored the mayor’s repeated pleas for help, and subsequently covered up their crimes.

Wildstein David Plea Agreement by Syndicated News SNN.BZ on Scribd

A New Jersey jury found both defendants guilty of conspiring to misuse, and misusing, federally funded property; conspiring to commit, and committing, wire fraud; and conspiring to deprive, and depriving, people of their civil rights.

Ms. Kelly cried as the foreman slowly answered “guilty” to each of the nine counts. Mr. Baroni showed no emotion and hugged his family after court was adjourned.

Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly, both of whom took the stand in their own defense, told the jury they had believed the closed lanes were for a traffic study, albeit an ill-conceived one. Both testified they trusted information provided by Mr. Wildstein, who cooperated with the government.

Ms. Kelly said the email she dashed off on Aug. 13, 2013, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” was badly worded and imitated a phrase often used by Mr. Wildstein.

While Ms. Kelly and Mr. Baroni, both 44 years old, spent six weeks behind the courtroom’s defense tables, at times it felt as if Trenton itself was on trial. Witnesses said it was common practice to use personal email addresses to conduct government business, because it was believed they weren’t responsive to public-records requests. They described Mr. Christie as a testy micromanager who once threw a water bottle at Ms. Kelly and left an expletive-heavy voice mail for a county freeholder who criticized his response to superstorm Sandy and called him fat.

The testimony of many witnesses, including the governor’s campaign strategist, contradicted Mr. Christie’s public statements about his and his inner circle’s knowledge of the closures.

During her time on the witness stand, Ms. Kelly said she discussed the lane closures with the governor three times. She spoke with Mr. Christie once before the lanes were closed, and twice in the midst of gridlock traffic in Fort Lee, she said.

Public-corruption cases typically involve officials who abuse government power for their own monetary gain. But the lane-closure trial was unusual because the allegations didn’t involve money, and prosecutors didn’t allege the defendants’ sought to further their own careers. Rather, their actions were in the service of the national ambitions of Mr. Christie, whom Messrs. Wildstein and Baroni dubbed their “one constituent.”

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Mr. Christie ended his presidential bid in February, after a disappointing showing in New Hampshire. Shortly before the trial began, he said in a television interview he was sure the bridge scandal was a factor in not being picked for vice president by Mr. Trump.

Throughout the trial, defense attorneys portrayed their clients as caught up in political gamesmanship that took place at the highest level of state government, and noted some officials were conspicuously absent from the witness stand. During his closing argument, a defense attorney yelled, “Chris Christie, where are you?”

—Henrick Karoliszyn contributed to this article.

Write to Corinne Ramey at [email protected]

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