The only things wrong with this is that Chris Christie is not in jail and I don’t think Baroni is being sincere in his regret.
He only cares that he got caught.
Bridgegate conspirator blames Christie’s ‘cult and culture’ ahead of prison sentence
By RYAN HUTCHINS, Politico
One of the conspirators behind the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal blamed the “cult and culture” of Chris Christie before being sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in federal prison.
The bizarre political stunt, which became known as Bridgegate, was designed to help the Republican governor’s career, but ended up halting his march toward the White House.
Bill Baroni, a former Republican state senator who served as Christie’s top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was convicted in November 2016 after a dramatic, six-week trial in federal court.
Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Wigenton on Tuesday, Baroni said he takes full responsibility for what he has done, though he blamed his actions on the hard-edge political style imposed by those loyal to Christie. Before his appointment to the staff of the bi-state Port Authority, Baroni said, he thought he had a clear sense of “right and wrong.”
“When I went to work at the Port Authority — when I went to work for Chris Christie — that line disappeared. I wanted to be on the team. I wanted to please him,” Baroni told the court. “I chose to get sucked into his cult and his culture.”
Baroni said he did nothing to stop the political scheme, which involved closing lanes to the world’s busiest bridge to cause severe traffic problems over the course of several days in September 2013.
Baroni said he’s ready to be punished and wants to work to make amends.
“I’m broken. So much good that I have done in my life I destroyed,” Baroni said, openly crying as he stood to face the court. “I deeply disappointed my friends and my family and my father. I’m so sorry.”
Tuesday’s court appearance came nearly two years after Baroni had been sentenced to 24 months in prison by the same judge. Baroni and his co-defendant, Bridget Anne Kelly, later appealed their convictions and were able to convince a federal appellate court to toss some of the counts against them, opening the window for the shorter stint in prison.
“The facts haven’t changed,” Wigenton said, calling the crimes an “outrageous display” and an “abuse of power.”
She also ordered Baroni to complete a year of supervised release, 500 hours of community service and pay nearly $22,000 in fines and restitution.
In a decision in November, a panel of judges sitting on the Third Circuit upheld the seven wire fraud and conspiracy counts on which Baroni and Kelly were convicted, but dismissed two civil rights-related convictions.
Kelly, who was one of Christie’s deputy chiefs of staff, is still fighting her conviction, hoping to plead her case before the U.S. Supreme Court. She was previously sentenced to 18 months.
With the help of a third conspirator, David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty and testified against the others, Baroni and Kelly helped orchestrate a scheme to close local access lanes to the bridge, tying up traffic for hours in the densely-populated Bergen County town of Fort Lee. The plan was meant to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, who refused to endorse Christie, a Republican, in his reelection bid.
Christie was never charged in the case and insists he had nothing to do with the scheme. But testimony during the trial painted an unflattering picture of his administration and damaged his presidential aspirations. Some testimony also contradicted Christie’s previous statements about when he was notified of the lane closures.
Federal prosecutors had urged Wigenton to consider imposing the same 24-month sentence she had delivered in 2017 — just above the new guideline range of 12 months to 18 months. Baroni, they argued, did not accept full responsibility for his actions, minimizing his role in the scandal.
“What he’s actually acknowledged is something far, far less than what actually happened,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes said.
He said Baroni’s claim that he lost his way is true.
“But just saying it like that doesn’t fully grapple with the conscious choices he made over and over and over again,” Cortes said.
Every Republican is guilty of cheating.
Every last one.