Bridget Anne Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff for then-Gov. Chris Christie, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months behind bars for her role in a scheme to punish the mayor of Fort Lee by misusing Port Authority resources to cause traffic problems in the borough and ultimately covering it up.
The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton of the District of New Jersey in Newark shaved five months from Kelly’s original sentence of 18 months.
The case had been remanded to Wigenton by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit after that court vacated some convictions last November.
In addition to the prison term, Wigenton sentenced Kelly to one year of supervised release, fined her $2,800 and ordered her to pay restitution of $14,314, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Kelly’s co-conspirator in the scandal, William E. Baroni, originally sentenced to 24 months in prison for his role in what became dubbed Bridgegate, had his sentence reduced to 18 months earlier this year.
The duo were portrayed as overzealous Christie loyalists who crossed the line in trying to help a Republican governor, who at one time had presidential aspirations, win over key Democrats to show his cross-party appeal and ultimately punish those who withheld their support.
Kelly’s attorney, Michael Critchley Sr. of Critchley, Kinum & DeNoia in Roseland, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee M. Cortes Jr., Vikas Khanna, David W. Feder and Senior Litigation Counsel J. Fortier Imbert of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division, the release noted.
Kelly, 46, a mother of four, and Baroni, 47, formerly the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were each convicted Nov. 4, 2016, following a six-week trial before Wigenton on all seven counts with which they had been charged. Kelly and Baroni were convicted of conspiring to misuse, and actually misusing, property of an organization receiving federal benefits; conspiring to commit, and actually committing, wire fraud; conspiring to injure and oppress certain individuals’ civil rights, and acting under color of law to deprive certain individuals of their civil rights.
They both appealed the convictions.
In a unanimous, precedential opinion, the Third Circuit last Nov. 27 affirmed five of seven convictions for each defendant, upholding all but the civil rights convictions and remanding the case for resentencing.
Baroni was resentenced last Feb. 26 to 18 months in prison.
All the charges related to the defendants’ scheme to manufacture traffic problems in Fort Lee without public warning for several days in September 2013, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The scheme to abruptly reduce from three to one the number of local access lanes on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge and the toll booths servicing those lanes under the false pretense of a traffic study was carried out to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie’s gubernatorial re-election bid.
A third conspirator, David Wildstein, the former director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority, pleaded guilty May 1, 2015, to a separate information charging him with two counts of conspiracy for his role in Bridgegate. Wildstein pleaded guilty to conspiring to misuse the property of an organization receiving federal benefits and conspiring to injure and oppress certain individuals’ civil rights in connection with his role in causing traffic problems. Wildstein was sentenced July 12, 2017, to three years of probation.
According to court documents and reports, to maximize the congestion and the punitive impact on Sokolich, the trio caused the lane and toll booth reductions to start on the first day of the school year without any advance notice. The closures resulted in gridlock in Fort Lee. The conspirators agreed to disregard any inquiries from Sokolich and other Fort Lee officials about the lane and toll booth reductions, authorities charged.
Christie, whose second term as governor ended in January 2018, has maintained that he had no prior knowledge of or role in the scandal.