US & Canada

Chris Christie aides found guilty of 'Bridgegate' lane closures

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie (R) speaks with Former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chris Christie (r) speaks with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani before the first presidential debate

Two aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have been found guilty of a political revenge plot to close down lanes at a busy New York City bridge.

Former senior aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni have been found guilty on nine counts of conspiracy and fraud.

The gridlock lasted several days and the two face up to 20 years in prison.

Mr Christie, now a senior adviser to Donald Trump, has denied any knowledge of the 2013 plot but court testimony cast doubt on that claim.

Prosecutors said the plan to shut down the George Washington Bridge was a way of exacting revenge on a local mayor who refused to back Mr Christie in his re-election bid.

Both Ms Kelly and Mr Baroni testified in court that the governor had known about the lane closures on the country's busiest bridge in advance.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Kelly reacts outside of court after the verdict was announced

A third aide who has already pleaded guilty, David Wildstein, testified that Mr Christie had laughed about the traffic jam during a 9/11 memorial service two days after the lanes were blocked.

Mr Christie launched an unsuccessful presidential run that came to an end in 2016, and was reportedly considered by Mr Trump as a possible running mate.

He released a statement shortly after the verdict was read saying "Like so many people in New Jersey, I'm saddened by this case and I'm saddened about the choices made by Bill Baroni, Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein.

"But let me be clear once again, I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments, and had no role in authorizing them."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The lane closured caused a severe traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge

The governor added that he intends to "set the record straight in the coming days regarding the lies that were told by the media and in the courtroom".

Bridget Kelly, the governor's former chief of staff, had claimed in court that he had been a bully to her and that he once threw a water bottle at her.

One of the most damning pieces of evidence was an email that Ms Kelly wrote saying "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee".

Later, as the Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich complained about children being unable to get to school, she texted: "Is it wrong that I am smiling?"

During the trial both aides testified that they believed the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic study.

They are due to be sentenced in February.

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