What to Know
- The U.S. Supreme Court seems skeptical of the convictions of Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni over the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal
- The purpose of the closures was to punish a mayor who refused to endorse then-governor Chris Christie's reelection
- Christie was never charged in the case and always denied wrongdoing
The Supreme Court seemed broadly skeptical Tuesday of the convictions of two people involved in New Jersey's “Bridgegate” scandal where officials created a massive traffic jam to punish a mayor who refused to endorse then-governor Chris Christie's reelection.
The justices suggested during arguments that the government had overreached in prosecuting Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni. Both were convicted of fraud and conspiracy for artificially creating gridlock in Fort Lee in 2013 after its mayor, a Democrat, declined to endorse the Republican governor.
Justice Samuel Alito, the only justice from New Jersey, was among those who suggested he was troubled by the government's argument.
Prosecutors said Kelly and Baroni schemed to make an abrupt change to the flow of traffic over the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into New York City in a way that backed up local traffic. The result was four days of traffic jams. A fictitious traffic study was used as cover for the change, but prosecutors said the real motive was political payback. At one point, Kelly, a Christie aide, wrote in an email: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Christie denied knowing about the plan ahead of time or as it was unfolding. Trial testimony contradicted his account, but the scandal helped derail his 2016 presidential bid.
Christie, Kelly and Baroni were all in the courtroom Tuesday. Christie was sitting just a row ahead of Kelly with his wife, Mary Pat. Of the former governor's presence, Baroni said sarcastically, "Bless his heart."
Kelly said, "I hope he had a harder time seeing me than I have seeing him."
In a prepared statement following the hearing, Kelly said, "This past week marked six years since my world was turned upside down. The journey has been long for me, my children, my family, my legal team and my friends. As I said in Newark last year, it has also been filled with much uncertainty, confusion, anger and sadness."
She continued: "Today, however, I stand here appreciative that the Justices of the United States Supreme Court heard my case. I was overwhelmed and grateful when they agreed to do so back in June, and I am honored to be here today. Much is yet to be determined, but today is about hope and justice. I remain optimistic that both will triumph and our lives can return to normal."
Christie left the courtroom without talking to News 4.