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Aides for Trump ally Christie convicted over 'Bridgegate'

The lane closures between New Jersey and New York caused days of chaos for thousands in a scandal that has haunted Governor Chris Christie. Two of the governor's former employees have been convicted of conspiracy

USA Bill Baroni (picture alliance/AP Photo/J. Cortez)

Former Christie deputy chief of staff Bill Baroni faces up to 20 years in prison

Two associates of top Donald Trump surrogate Chris Christie were convicted on Friday over traffic closures implemented as political revenge against a local mayor. The so-called "Bridgegate" scandal has dogged New Jersey Governor Christie for three years.

The allegations stemmed from a 2013 incident in which New Jersey closed highway lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge – the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge. The court found that causing this gridlock was an act of political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for refusing to endorse Christie, a Republican.

The governor's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, were convicted on multiple conspiracy and fraud charges, as well as charges of depriving the people of Fort Lee of their civil rights.

During the lane closures, which took place over a few days in September 2013, many emergency service workers complained of not being able to go to and from area hospitals with their ambulances. Baroni, the court was told, repeatedly ignored these warnings.

"I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments, and had no role in authorizing them," Christie said of the incident. "No believable evidence was presented to contradict that fact. Anything said to the contrary over the past six weeks in court is simply untrue."

Scandal continues to plague Christie

Despite his repeated claims of innocence, the scandal has cast a cloud over Christie's career - ending first his White House bid and then losing him a chance to be Donald Trump's running mate.

USA Bridget Anne Kelly Mitarbeiterin von Trump-Unterstützer Christie (picture alliance/AP Photo/J. Cortez)

"Is it wrong that I am smiling?" Kelly wrote of the Fort Lee complaints

Defense lawyer Michael Critchley accused Governor Christie of setting up Baroni and his client, Kelly, as scapegoats.

"They want that mother of four to take the fall for them. Cowards. Cowards," he said in his closing statement.

There was, however, some damning evidence against Kelly, including an email in which she wrote: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," and a later message in which she mocked Fort Lee's mayor for complaining that children couldn't get to school.

Sentencing is schedule for February 21. The most serious charges carry prison sentences of up to 20 years.

es/msh (AP, dpa)

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