A federal judge on Tuesday resentenced a onetime aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to 18 months in prison for his role in the Bridgegate scandal.
Bill Baroni, Christie’s top executive appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was convicted in November 2016 on charges of conspiracy, fraudulently misusing resources at the agency, wire fraud, and civil rights violations.
He was sentenced to two years in prison, but in November a three-judge appellate panel in Philadelphia tossed the civil rights convictions against Baroni and his codefendant, former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly.
That led to Tuesday’s hearing in Newark before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton. Kelly, 46, initially sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, has filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Both have remained free on bail pending their appeals.
It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday when Baroni, 47, would report to prison.
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence and elicited testimony from witnesses showing that Baroni, Kelly, and another former Christie ally, David Wildstein, plotted in September 2013 to cause traffic jams in Fort Lee, Bergen County, near the George Washington Bridge. Prosecutors said the goal was to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for his refusal to endorse Republican Christie’s reelection campaign that year.
The conspirators sought to cover up the scheme by promoting a sham story that the Port Authority, a multi-billion dollar agency, was conducting a traffic study, the evidence showed. Baroni repeated that lie to state lawmakers investigating the traffic jams.
The scheme unraveled when lawmakers obtained emails revealing an August 2013 missive from Kelly to Wildstein. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” it read. “Got it," Wildstein responded.
Then the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark started investigating.
Wildstein pleaded guilty in the case and testified as a government witness at trial. In July 2017, he was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Addressing the court before his sentencing Tuesday, Baroni said he had lost his sense of “right and wrong” when he went to work for Christie.
In a letter to Wigenton, Baroni apologized for his actions, and said he had tried to make amends by volunteering with community organizations in New York and New Jersey.
In court papers, Baroni’s lawyers asked Wigenton to impose a sentence of six months’ incarceration and a period of home confinement. They said Baroni, himself an attorney, would likely be permanently disbarred and was “essentially bankrupt."
Federal guidelines called for 12 to 18 months’ imprisonment.
Prosecutors recommended a minimum of 18 months, citing what they called Baroni’s “outrageous abuse of power” and “brazen and wide-ranging perjury at trial.”
Baroni was first elected to the Assembly in 2003 and served two terms before winning election to the Senate in 2007. Christie, who took office in 2010, appointed Baroni deputy executive director of the Port Authority. Wildstein served as Baroni’s chief of staff.
Christie, in his new book, Let Me Finish, writes that he considered Baroni a friend and a “good person." But Baroni wasn’t “strong enough to say ‘no’ to his best friend, lying felon David Wildstein,” Christie writes.