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National

Former Chris Christie Aides Sentenced To Prison Over 'Bridgegate'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Two former allies of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are headed to prison. This is part of what's become known as the Bridgegate scandal. They were sentenced yesterday in a federal court. Joe Hernandez from member station WHYY in Philadelphia has more.

JOE HERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Before she sentenced the two defendants, Judge Susan Wigenton said this is a sad day for New Jersey. Former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni will get two years in prison. Former deputy chief of staff to Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, is getting 18 months.

In November, a federal jury found the pair guilty of causing traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge in what prosecutors said was an act of political retaliation. They were portrayed as punishing the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., who refused to endorse Christie for re-election. Moments after leaving the court, Kelly vowed to appeal her sentence.

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BRIDGET ANNE KELLY: I want to assure my kids and everyone else that this fight is far from over. I will not allow myself to be the scapegoat in this case.

HERNANDEZ: The two will also have to pay fines and complete 500 hours of community service. The lane closures snarled traffic for four days right at the start of the 2013 school year, trapping children in school buses and parents on their daily commutes. Local officials said it was a risk to public safety. Acting U.S. Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said the prison sentences for Baroni and Kelly were fair and should send a message to public servants.

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WILLIAM FITZPATRICK: Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly used their positions in the government, used government resources to settle a petty political score.

HERNANDEZ: Another former Port Authority official pleaded guilty to masterminding the lane closures at the bridge but has not yet been sentenced. Christie was never charged in the case and says he didn't know about the revenge plot. But since Bridgegate, Christie's approval ratings have taken a nosedive in New Jersey. And the scandal became a major issue in his failed bid for president. For NPR News, I'm Joe Hernandez in Newark, N.J.

(SOUNDBITE OF LITTLE PEOPLE'S "BASIQUE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.