Bridgegate Winding Down

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie was never charged in the scandal that shut down access to the nation's busiest bridge for three days in September 2013 for political retribution. His aide and an appointment to the Port Authority were sentenced to prison.
April 3, 2017, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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George Pankewytch

The scandal, initiated by the infamous line uttered by Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," appears to be coming to a close.

The seven-week trial concluded Wednesday with "Kelly, 44, sentenced to 18 months in prison, (and) Bill Baroni, 45, who served as deputy executive director [and was Christie's top staff appointment] at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, sentenced to two years in prison," reports Nick Corasaniti for The New York Times.

Over five days in September 2013, the gridlock ensnared emergency vehicles, school buses and commuters, even as Mr. Baroni ignored [Fort Lee Mayor Mark] Sokolich’s messages seeking an explanation.

A third person, former Port Authority executive David Wildstein, "admitted in federal court on May 1, 2015 to conspiring with ... Baroni and ... Kelly to 'punish' Fort Lee, N.J. [Democratic] mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid [in November 2013]," according to NJ.com.

Referring to the lane closures, “Those are the actions out of the playbook of some dictator of a banana republic,” Lee M. Cortes Jr., an assistant United States attorney, said in court on Wednesday. “It is incomprehensible that such actions could take place here, in the United States.”

Christie's Bridge Toll

Gov. Christie had wanted a decisive reelection victory for his presidential aspirations. Though he was never charged, he could never shake his connection to the lane closures.

From the moment Ms. Kelly’s email became public, Mr. Christie’s then soaring political ambitions were dealt a blow from which he would never recover.

Judge Susan D. Wigenton alluded to the political culture his administration created on Wednesday as she handed down her sentences against Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly at the federal courthouse in Newark, calling it a toxic 'with us or against us' mentality detrimental to New Jersey residents.

The bridgegate investigation uncovered an unrelated wrongdoing with a connection to Christie that brought down the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"David Samson, a former New Jersey attorney general and a longtime friend of the governor, was charged separately and pleaded guilty to bribery for personal gain after an investigation showed that he had pressured United Airlines to resume a flight to South Carolina near where he has a home," adds Corasaniti. "Mr. Samson was sentenced this month to a year of home confinement." 

The lane closings proved to be one of the biggest scandals in New Jersey history, a state that is familiar with official malfeasance.

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Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in The New York Times
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