This morning in a Manhattan federal courtroom, two of Chris Christie’s “loyal lieutenants” were taken down by Section 666 of Title 18 of the United States Code. Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly were convicted on all charges for their roles in Bridgegate and could each theoretically face 20 years in prison (although nothing close to that will be imposed).
…assistant U.S. attorney Lee Cortes, in his summations to the jury, said Baroni, Kelly and [prosecution witness David] Wildstein all saw themselves as the governor’s “loyal lieutenants” who were free to use their public jobs to launch political attacks.
“They used their positions at the Port Authority and in the governor’s office to execute a malicious scheme to punish a local mayor by needlessly leading innocent travelers, adults and children who were pawns in a political game into a paralyzing traffic jam that went on for days,” he said. “They stopped people from moving freely about their community for no legitimate reason…just to mess with people, so they could send a clear and nasty political message. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes this a federal crime.”
Bridget Anne Kelly, a single mother of four and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, is going to the hoosegow because her own “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email to Wildstein convicted her. She couldn’t provide an explanation for why she texted Wildstein after he informed her that the bridge lanes were closed: “Is it wrong that I am smiling?”
Inside and outside the courthouse she was visibly distraught:
Kelly cried and continued to sob as she heard the word guilty repeated time and again. Neither defendant stood as the verdicts were read.
Afterward, Kelly hugged her attorney and her mother…
…Moments later, outside the federal courthouse, Critchley said his client “was a scapegoat” but he refused to answer any questions regarding Christie. Kelly, who did not speak, stood beside Critchley and appeared to be visibly quaking.
An interesting aspect of this case is that both the prosecution and the defense agreed that Governor Chris Christie had authorized the lane closures, been kept abreast of progress, and had lied to everyone about his foreknowledge and knowledge as the traffic jams went on for days.
But if Christie is feeling remorse about his underlings being convicted in federal court, there are no signs of it:
Christie’s office released a statement less than an hour after the verdict.
“Like so many people in New Jersey, I’m saddened by this case and I’m saddened about the choices made by Bill Baroni, Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein,” Christie said. “Today’s verdict does not change this for me.”
The governor’s statement went on to reiterate that “I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments.”
In truth, everything about that statement has either been disproved in federal court or is contradicted by common sense. You can’t even credibly express sadness when you’re nakedly in front of the world letting a single mother of four go to federal prison because you won’t cop to what you did.
Bill Baroni’s lawyer said it best:
Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldassare, said “it was a disgrace” that the U.S. Attorney’s office did not charge “powerful people.”
“In keeping with the disgrace that was this trial, one of the things the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be ashamed of is where it decided to draw the line on who to charge and who not to charge,” Baldassare said. “… They should have had belief in their own case to charge powerful people, and they did not.”
In other words, “my client may be guilty but he’s a scapegoat here. The real guilty party is Governor Chris Christie, and he should have been charged.”
The prosecutor doesn’t necessarily disagree:
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman praised the outcome and said he was “enormously proud” of his staff, members of the FBI and Office of Inspector General.
Pressed by reporters on why others, including Christie, were not charged, Fishman said he never says which cases he will or will not bring.
Speaking of being “proud of the FBI,” is seems like our Justice system has a lot to say about who they think should be the next president. The election ends in four days. The American people should know if U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman plans to indict the man who is going to head up Donald Trump’s transition plan.
As for Trump, will he promise not to pardon Kelly, Baroni and, if necessary, his transition man?