'You Are a Bully': Former Christie Aide Lashes Out After 'Bridgegate' Prison Sentence

by | April 25, 2019 AT 7:40 AM

By Andrew Seidman

Bridget Anne Kelly, who was a top aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, denounced him as a "coward" and vowed to keep a spotlight on him as she was sentenced on Wednesday to 13 months in prison for her role in the Bridgegate scandal.

"Mr. Christie, you are a bully, and the days of you calling me a liar and destroying my life are over," Kelly, 46, said outside the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J.

"The truth will be heard -- and for the former governor, that truth will be unescapable, regardless of lucrative television deals or even future campaigns," she continued, adding that Christie was responsible for the infamous 2013 traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge. "I plan to make sure of that."

That Kelly was sentenced to prison came as little surprise -- she'd already been sentenced once, but an appeals court ruling necessitated a new hearing. Yet her remarks to reporters on Wednesday were striking, given how little she has said publicly in the nearly four years since she was indicted.

A federal jury in 2016 found Kelly, once the governor's deputy chief of staff, and another former Christie aide guilty of conspiracy and other crimes in connection to the September 2013 plot to cause days of massive traffic jams near the bridge to New York City. Emails, text messages, and witness testimony showed that Christie allies wanted to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, Bergen County, because he had refused to endorse Christie's reelection campaign.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly wrote in an August 2013 email to David Wildstein, who was a Christie ally and top official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"Got it," he replied.

Prosecutors said Kelly, Wildstein, and Port Authority official Bill Baroni conspired to reduce the number of local access lanes available to commuters approaching the bridge from Fort Lee from three to one. They covered up the scheme by promoting it as a "traffic study," prosecutors said.

At trial, Kelly testified that she believed that the lane closings were part of a legitimate traffic study. Kelly told jurors that she had informed Christie weeks ahead of time that the study could create "tremendous traffic problems" for commuters, but he approved it anyway.

Her defense team hardly had kind words for Christie at trial. But on Wednesday, she unloaded on the former governor and questioned how he and his closest associates "escape[d] justice."

"Chris Christie was allowed -- without rebuttal from anyone -- to say out of one side of his mouth that I was a low-level staffer, a woman only good enough to plan menus and invite people to events, then say out of the other side of his mouth that I was somehow powerful [enough] to shut down the George Washington Bridge," Kelly said, reading from a statement.

"There is only one person," she said. "Only one. And he was powerful enough to approve this act."

Christie, a Republican who served two terms, has maintained that he neither knew about nor authorized the plot. In his 2019 book, Let Me Finish, Christie muses that then-U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman pursued the case as a kind of audition for a prospective Hillary Clinton administration.

Kelly was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison. An appeals court panel tossed a couple of the convictions, leading to her resentencing on Wednesday before District Judge Susan D. Wigenton. Kelly is appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her codefendant at trial, Baroni, was resentenced in February to 18 months in prison.

Kelly, a divorced mother of four, mentioned each of her children in her statement. She also said the case had "shaken my faith in our system of justice" and called it a "miscarriage of justice," pointing again to the former governor.

"The fact that I am on these steps in place of others from the Christie administration -- and the governor himself -- does not prove my guilt. It only proves that justice is not blind," she said. "It has favorites. It misses the mark. It misses the truth. And it picks winners and losers that are sometimes beyond anyone's control."

Kelly's lawyer, Michael Critchley Sr., said she would seek to remain free on bail pending appeal.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Kelly said "family and friends" had discussed with Washington contacts the prospect of a pardon from President Donald Trump, but she did not elaborate.

"While I would accept a pardon, no question, it's not something that I am orchestrating the efforts for," she told the newspaper.

(c)2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer