Friday, November 4, 2016

Bridgegate jury finds both defendants guilty on all counts

Bridgegate defendant Bridget Anne Kelly and attorney Michael Critchley after jury found her guilty on all counts

Two former 
Christie administration insiders charged in a bizarre scheme of political retaliation against a mayor who refused to endorse the governor for re-election were found guilty Friday on all counts in the long-running Bridgegate saga.

Tedd Sherman and Matt Arco report for NJ.COM

In a seven-week trial that saw their own words used against them, Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly were convicted of helping orchestrate massive traffic tie-ups at the George Washington Bridge in September 2013. The plot was hatched to send a pointed message to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, after he stepped back from his earlier public support of Gov. Chris Christie.
The jury began reading its findings just before 11:30 a.m. and delivered the guilty decisions in rapid fire. 
Baroni stared at the jury stoically as the verdicts were read.
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.  

U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton set the sentencing date for Feb. 21. Baroni and Kelly face a maximum of 20 years in prison, but are likely to serve far less under federal sentencing guidelines. 
Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, said his client would appeal and that he would continue to pursue a mistrial.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," Critchley said. "My client is innocent. This was a unique theory of prosecution (and) obviously we're going to appeal."

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. 
A more upbeat Baroni also held a brief press conference outside the courthouse, claiming his innocence. He thanked friends and family here and in Ireland for their support, including members of the gay community. 
"I am innocent of these charges," Baroni said. "And I am very, very looking forward to an appeal."
Baroni's attorney, Michael Baldassare, said "it was a disgrace" that the U.S. Attorney's office did not charge "powerful people."

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"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."
Moran: Christie is the culprit who got away
The jury's guilty verdict was fair, but it leaves a sour taste. Gov. Chris Christie covered his tracks, and got away with it.

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, "We indicted only the people who we believed we had evidence beyond a reasonable doubt ... to convict in this courthouse."

Testimony in the trial likely wouldn't be admissible in future cases, he said. But he didn't close the door on future charges related to the scandal. "I never say what cases I am or am not going to bring," he said. 
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."
Jurors were tight lipped as they left the courthouse. One female juror said "No comment." Three others coming out of the courthouse together were silent and did not respond to questions as they headed to their cars. 

Related Bridgegate News:
The Bridgegate Verdict's Preview of the Trump Adminstration 
VERDICT: Kelly, Baroni guilty on all counts in Bridgegate trial

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