Kelly says she won’t be Bridgegate ‘scapegoat’ after getting 18 months in prison
NEWARK — A former aide to Gov. Chris Christie who was convicted in the Bridgegate scandal remained defiant and said she would not be made the "scapegoat" after a federal judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison.
Bridget Kelly, who wept during the sentencing, appeared outside the courthouse with her attorney Wednesday, and briefly addressed reporters.
"This fight is far from over," Kelly said. "I will not allow my to be the scapegoat in this case."
Bill Baroni, a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie, was sentenced earlier in the day to two years in prison for his involvement in the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Federal prosecutors had sought three to four years in prison for the pair, arguing that they lied during the trial.
Both also were sentenced to 500 hours of community service.
Baroni, 45, was the first of two former Christie allies to be sentenced Wednesday after being convicted in November of all the counts against them, including wire fraud, conspiracy and misusing the bridge for improper purposes. Lawyers for Kelly, 44, and Baroni had asked for probation.
Kelly's attorney said his client maintains her innocence and vowed to appeal.
During the sentencing, U.S. Judge Susan Wigenton told Baroni he misled a legislative committee when he tried to pass the gridlock off as a legitimate traffic study and later misled the jury with the same contention.
"It was completely intended to wreak havoc," she said. "It only served a punitive purpose. You clearly knew, and know today, that it was not" legitimate.
"I let a lot of people down who believed in me and relied on me. Most of all I let Mark Sokolich down. That was my choice and my responsibility. And I made the wrong choice," Baroni told the judge before she sentenced him to prison and to 500 hours of community service.
"I was wrong and I am truly sorry, and I've waited three years to say that," he said.
Kelly told the court that she never intended to cause harm.
"I accept responsibility for the tone of my emails and texts," she said. "My emails and texts were disrespectful and I am absolutely embarrassed by them. They don't reflect who I am."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes said that Baroni's time as a state lawmaker, lawyer and school teacher gave him the experience and judgment to conduct himself ethically.
"But when Bill Baroni was put to the test and made a choice, he chose to abuse his official power. And then he chose to lie about it," Cortes said, calling Baroni's conduct "brazen, calculated, and a mean-spirited abuse of power" that had "real-life consequences on the people he was supposed to serve."
Kelly was Christie’s former deputy chief of staff. Baroni was a top appointee to the authority that runs the bridge. They were convicted of using their positions to cause traffic jams near the bridge in 2013 in a plot against the Democratic Fort Lee mayor who didn’t endorse Christie for re-election.
Kelly sent an email to David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, saying: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Wildstein pleaded guilty in the plot and testified against Baroni and Kelly.
Christie wasn’t charged and has denied any knowledge or involvement in the plot.
A citizen activist in Bergen County tried to have Christie prosecuted on an official misconduct charge in state Superior Court based on testimony from the trial that contradicted Christie's public statements on the case. But a judge threw out his complaint because the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office did not believe they could prove Christie was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose office prosecuted the Bridgegate case, this month said that his office only brought charges against people he felt could be convicted.
Fishman, who resigned from his appointed office this month, said that does not mean that his office cleared Christie.
“We don’t actually say people didn’t do something, we don’t say that they’re innocent,” Fishman said
Another Christie ally at the Port Authority was convicted in a separate scandal. Former Port Authority chairman David Samson pleaded guilty to bribery last year and was sentenced earlier this month to four years of probation, home confinement for a year, 3,600 hours of community service and a $100,000 fine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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