Bill Baroni

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Bridge scandal defendant resentenced to less prison time

February 26, 2019 - 2:58 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- An appointee of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie learned Tuesday that he will spend less time in prison for his role in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.

A judge sentenced Bill Baroni to 18 months, down from two years.

Baroni was an executive of the authority that operates the bridge. He was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 24 months in what prosecutors said was a plot to create traffic jams to retaliate against a mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie.

In November, a federal appeals court threw out civil rights counts against Baroni and co-defendant Bridget Kelly and ordered the resentencing.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, received an 18-month sentence.

The former Republican governor wasn't charged, but the scandal derailed his presidential ambitions.

Kelly is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a wavering voice Tuesday, Baroni apologized for his actions and said he allowed his desire to be on Christie's ``team'' to cloud his judgment.

 "I wanted to be on the team, I wanted to please him, but I chose to get sucked into his cult and culture,'' he said. ``So by the time of this idea, to use the lanes of the George Washington Bridge to help his campaign, I no longer had that line of right and wrong to say no or to stop it. So I didn't.''

Baroni had sought a new sentence of six months' incarceration plus additional home confinement and community service. The government had asked for a prison term of at least 18 months.

In comments to the judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes argued that Baroni's contrition didn't alter the fact that he ``harmed many people'' and lied repeatedly about what he had done.

 The massive gridlock over four days and part of a fifth in September 2013 mushroomed into a scandal dubbed ``Bridgegate'' that dragged down Christie's presidential aspirations and, Christie later conceded, played a role in then-Republican nominee Donald Trump's decision not to name him as his running mate.

 A third defendant, David Wildstein, a former high school classmate of Christie's who reported to Baroni at the Port Authority, admitted orchestrating the plot and testified against Baroni and Kelly. He was sentenced to probation.