NEWARK, N.J. (CN) — A federal jury convicted two people Friday of conspiring to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge, and later covering up the scheme, as punishment for a New Jersey Democrat who had angered Gov. Chris Christie.
The trial against 43-year-old Bridget Anne Kelly and 44-year-old Bill Baroni Jr. lasted for over six weeks at the Newark federal courthouse. Jury deliberations began late Monday, and the seven women and five men returned Friday at about 11:30 a.m. with guilty verdicts on all nine counts.
Kelly and Baroni faced five charges together, plus each faced two individual counts of wire fraud. The joint charges included conspiracy to misuse (and actually misuse) government property and resources.
At the time of the lane shutdown in September 2013, Kelly had been Christie's former deputy chief of staff. Baroni served as deputy executive director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that runs the busy bridge. As Christie's top appointee to the bi-state agency, Baroni worked closely with another ally of the governor's, David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty last year to his role in the scheme.
After the verdict reading, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman told reporters that he expects a prison time of just over two years — slightly more than the sentence Wildstein will get in exchange for his guilty plea. Ahead of their Feb. 21 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton, bail conditions for all the defendants remain the same.
Talking to reporters outside the courtroom, Kelly's lead defense counsel Michael Critchley said they were "obviously disappointed" in the verdict and that they will appeal.
"This is not over, I assure you," said Critchley, repeating his "serious concerns" about how the jury was instructed on intent.
"I'm surprised they're guilty on any counts," Critchley added.
Standing beside his tearful client, the attorney said Kelly's primary concern how this will affect her four children, the youngest of whom is in elementary school.
Baroni held his composure in a speech of his own, maintaining his innocence and grandly thanking his supporters. Before his position at the Port Authority, the Republican had served on both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate.
In additon to his family and legal team, Baroni took care to mention "my friends in the gay community, who have stood by me and lifted me up and supported me throughout the course of this trial."
Fallout from the verdict could have further implications for the New Jersey political scene. Indeed, several individuals incriminated by witness testimony over the course of the trial now advise the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The biggest of these names of course is Christie himself, who chairs Trump's transition committee and has seen his ratings to plummet to historic lows in Bridgegate's aftermath. Evidence during the trial indicated that Christie knew of the lane closures and even blessed them a month beforehand.
After the verdict Friday, the governor stood by his claim that he had no knowledge of his underlings' traffic machinations. "No believable evidence was presented to contradict that fact," Christie said in a statement.