On Friday, November 4, 2016, two of Governor Chris Christie’s former staff members were found guilty of all charges in connection with the 2014 closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Bill Baroni were found guilty of multiple charges, including conspiracy, fraud and civil rights deprivation (http://cnn.it/2fLlLE2). The situation is now commonly referred to as “Bridgegate”- because America needs one more political scandal to shake things up.
For those who forgot about Bridgegate due to the ongoing circus entitled the “2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” here is a quick recap: back in September 9, 2013, Port Authority closed down two of the three access lanes connecting Fort Lee, New Jersey to the George Washington Bridge (http://bit.ly/1iubmHu). Port Authority officials publicly claimed the lanes were closed as part of a “traffic study,” and the closures resulted in extremely long commutes and intense traffic delays (http://bit.ly/1iubmHu). However, the “traffic study” turned out to be a codename for blackmail. Subpoenaed emails revealed the lanes closers were actually a “political retribution against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who had refused to endorse Christie’s reelection bid” (http://bit.ly/1iubmHu). According to CNN, “prosecutors alleged that the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge were part of a deliberate effort to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who did not endorse the Republican incumbent Christie in his 2013 re-election bid” (http://bit.ly/1iubmHu). The emails were between Kelly and David Wildstein, the Port Authority executive appointed by Christie who ordered the lane closures (http://bit.ly/1iubmHu). Kelly emailed Wildstein “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”, and he reply “Got It.” Wildstein has since pleaded guilty to charges laid against him.
Once the emails became public and the scandal dominated media outlets and new channels worldwide, Governor Chris Christie immediately fired Kelly. In an official statement once Kelly and Baroni were found guilty of all charged, Christie said,“he was saddened by the case and repeated his long-standing claim that he had no knowledge of the plot to close lanes as an act of political retribution” (http://cnn.it/2fLlLE2). He used the same denial tactic when the story first broke out publically.
As reported by The Guardian, in an interview with CBS, Christie called the situation, “one of the most abjectly stupid things I’ve ever seen” (http://bit.ly/2fz1kWZ).
As a result, Christie’s dream to become the next U.S. President was crushed. He claims the scandal influenced the decision by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, not to pick him as a running mate (http://bit.ly/2fz1kWZ). Christie is currently chairman of Trump’s transition team, in charge of hiring thousands of employees if elected (http://bit.ly/2fz1kWZ). Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the verdict came out only four days before the 2016 US Presidential election.
Sentencing for Kelly and Baroni will take place on February 21, 2017. According to CNN,
Kelly’s defence attorney will be planning to appeal the verdict and will request a new trial (http://cnn.it/2fLlLE2). CNN also reports that defence attorneys for both Kelly and Baroni had filed a mistrial motion last Thursday before Friday’s verdict (http://cnn.it/2fLlLE2). Kelly and Baroni can potentially face a maximum sentence of 86 years in prison.
…and to think: by not pressing the “Send” button, the whole situation could have been avoided.