In September 2013, officials linked to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used their power to abruptly close lanes on one of the world’s busiest bridges, the George Washington, for four days. Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director for the Port Authority, were sentenced last week for their crimes. During Baroni’s sentencing, Judge Susan Wigenton said the crimes were “an outrageous abuse of power,” and that the incident “culminates another unfortunate chapter in the history of New Jersey.”
The 2013 act of political revenge resulted in a sentence of 24 months in prison for Baroni, and 18 months in prison for Kelly. In addition, both were ordered to complete 500 hours of community service, and pay fines. The conviction came in November, when Baroni and Kelly were found guilty on seven counts, including civil rights deprivation, fraud, and conspiracy. A MA defense lawyer can help if you’ve been charged with criminal conspiracy.
The George Washington Bridge, connects Fort Lee, New Jersey with Manhattan. According to court documents, the four-day closure became a serious public safety risk, endangering citizens and causing severe traffic delays. So, why did officials order the abrupt closure of lanes on one of the world’s busiest bridges? The prosecution alleged that the effort was intended to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s 2013 bid for re-election.
It’s All in the Emails
Charges were filed following an investigation that uncovered incriminating emails and text messages. In one email between Kelly and former Port Authority official David Wildstein, Kelly wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Kelly claims that the email was sarcastic and humorous and that it referred to results from a recent traffic study. It is estimated that the duo’s actions cost Port Authority over $14,000. In Baroni’s testimony, he claimed that he thought the lane closures were part of a legal traffic study, and that Wildstein had relayed this information to him. Wildstein, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the vengeful incident, pleaded guilty to one civil rights violation and one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud.
Only a Prison Sentence Can Restore the Community’s Faith in Public Institutions
The sentences may seem harsh, but prosecutors believed that a prison sentence was the only way to deal with this level of public corruption. The court documents stated that, ”As both Baroni and Kelly surely understood given their lengthy tenures in New Jersey government, crimes committed by public officials are particularly insidious because they destroy the community’s faith in its own public institutions.”
What is Criminal Conspiracy?
In MA, criminal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful act. Three elements must be present to prove a conspiracy existed in MA. These are:
- The defendant entered into an agreement with at least one other person.
- The agreement had a criminal or unlawful purpose.
- The defendant was aware that the purpose was criminal or unlawful and intended to carry out the act.
Penalties for Criminal Conspiracy
Depending on the offense the defendant was conspiring to commit, and any prior criminal history, the penalties for conspiracy can vary widely. If the underlying offense was a misdemeanor, the penalty is up to two-and-a-half years in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. If, however, the defendant conspired to commit a felony, he or she may be facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’re facing criminal conspiracy charges. Continue reading