Ex-Christie staffer to appeal bridge case to Supreme Court
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A onetime staffer to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to appeal her conviction in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing case to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to recently filed court papers.
Lawyers for Bridget Kelly notified a judge last week she will petition the high court.
Kelly was Christie’s deputy chief of staff in 2013 when, prosecutors allege, she and two officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conspired to close access lanes to the bridge over four days to create gridlock in the town of Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor had declined to endorse Christie, a Republican, for re-election.
Kelly authored the infamous “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email the month before the lane realignment went into effect.
Kelly and former Port Authority executive Bill Baroni, a former New Jersey state senator, were convicted in 2016 of wire fraud, conspiracy and civil rights counts and sentenced to 18 and 24 months, respectively.
The third alleged conspirator, former Port Authority official David Wildstein, a high school acquaintance of Christie’s, pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution. He was sentenced to probation.
Christie wasn’t charged and denied prior knowledge of the scheme, though that version was contradicted by several witnesses who testified during the trial. The ensuing publicity helped derail Christie’s efforts to be the GOP’s 2016 presidential nominee.
Kelly’s attorneys have argued that while Baroni’s and her actions may have been ethically questionable, they weren’t illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the bridge was still being used for a public purpose.
Attorneys also have contended the trial judge erred when she ruled jurors didn’t have to believe the lane realignment was for a political purpose in order to find the defendants guilty.
Kelly and Baroni have been free on bail since their arrests in 2015. In November, a three-judge panel at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia threw out the civil rights convictions, which related to impeding intrastate travel, but upheld the more serious counts.
Baroni elected to go ahead with a resentencing, scheduled for later this month. Kelly petitioned to have the full 3rd Circuit reconsider her appeal but was turned down last week.
The letter to the judge from her attorney, Michael Critchley, said the Supreme Court petition would be filed this week so the court could decide in its current term whether to hear the case.