Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bridgegate Architect Drops Bid for 3rd Circuit Rehearing

One of the two Bridgegate plotters wants to begin serving time now, backing off an appeal after the Third Circuit upheld most of the charges against him.

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Backing off his bid for a Third Circuit rehearing, one of the architects of Bridgegate debacle has asked to be resentenced so he can begin serving his time immediately.

In a short Jan. 4 letter to the federal appeals court, Sidley Austin attorneys wrote that their client, William Baroni, “believes it would be best for his case to be returned to the District Court as promptly as possible so that the District Court can impose a new sentence and Mr. Baroni can begin serving that sentence.”

A former appointee of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Baroni indicated that he may still seek relief from the U.S. Supreme Court but does not want the Third Circuit to review his case again either by panel or en banc.

U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton sentenced Baroni back in 2017 to two years in jail for his role in orchestrating the closure of two traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political retribution.

The scandal made headlines in 2014 after news outlets got a hold of emails and texts between Baroni and two other Christie cronies detailing their plans. In one of the most explosive emails, Christie’s deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly wrote to David Wildstein, another Christie appointee to the Port Authority: “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor had intimated to the Christie administration in the days preceding that message that he would not be endorsing Christie’s re-election. 

Fort Lee sits on the New Jersey side of the GW Bridge and shortly thereafter found two of its usual lanes leading onto the bridge closed for four days, snarling thousands of commuters, emergency vehicles and school buses in gridlock traffic.

Wildstein and Baroni used their positions at the Port Authority to unilaterally close the lanes without the knowledge of higher-ups at the bistate agency, which manages the bridge.

After Kelly and Baroni were convicted on nine counts each, the duo brought their appeals last year to the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit. Attorneys for the duo insisted that their actions may have been “nasty politics” but not criminal.

The Third Circuit in November upheld the bulk of the charges against Baroni and Kelly, finding that they misused Port Authority resources and that Baroni invented the cover story of a traffic study to authorize the realignment of traffic lanes that he was otherwise not authorized to manipulate.

Emphasizing the George Washington Bridge’s rank as the world’s busiest span, U.S. Circuit Judge Anthony Scirica wrote that Kelly and Baroni “invented a sham traffic study to usurp that exclusive interest, reallocating the flow of traffic and commandeering public employee time in a manner that made no economic or practical sense.”

In a minor win for the defendants, however, the Third Circuit opted to reverse their civil rights charges, which were based on the idea that Baroni and Kelly had violated travelers’ right to intrastate travel by snarling traffic across the bridge and in Fort Lee.

“Simply put, although four circuits (including our own) have found some form of a constitutional right to intrastate travel, there is hardly a ‘robust consensus’ that the right exists, let alone clarity as to its contours,” the 78-page ruling states.

Kelly potentially faces 18 months, and her attorneys said they may appeal her charges to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kelly has asked for a review by the full Third Circuit.

Wildstein cut a plea deal and served as the government’s star witness as it brought Baroni and Kelly to trial in 2016. He received probation for his testimony and today operates the political site New Jersey Globe.

Follow @NickRummell
Categories / Appeals, Government, Politics

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.