The pair was convicted in the 2013 closure of the George Washington Bridge that caused nightmarish traffic gridlock for four days, a move more commonly known as the “Bridgegate” scandal.
“They needed to paint someone as the villain and as the scapegoat, but that’s not me,” Kelly said.
Kelly had written the infamous email to Port Authority officials, saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
In 2016, Kelly and Baroni were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy for orchestrating a plan, reducing Fort Lee’s access lanes. It was meant to serve as punishment to the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., after he decided not to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
Despite the convictions, the pair have maintained their innocence, saying instead they were scapegoats and blamed Christie, who was not
charged in the case.
When asked by CBS2 what it was like to hear the news from the high court, Kelly described her reaction as “shock, tears, a lot of tears – but they were happy tears for once.”
In the unanimous 15-page ruling, the court noted that while the pair did use deception to cause traffic chaos, Justice Elena Kagan wrote: “not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime.”
“I didn’t do this,” said Kelly. “This was an act of the Port Authority and others… and a traffic study that I was told was legitimate.
“I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t ask enough questions when things started to get strange,” she said.
Fort Lee residents have mixed opinions about Kelly and Baroni’s exoneration, ranging from “They were more victims than actual… perpetrators, though I thought Governor Christie got out very easily” to “It’s a travesty what happened. They all should be in jail, including Chris Christie.”
Former Gov. Christie praised the court’s decision, saying justice has finally been done.
“What cannot be undone is the damage that was visited upon all of the people dragged through the mud who had nothing to do with this incident by the prosecutorial misconduct and personal vindictiveness of Paul Fishman,” said Christie in a statement referring by name to the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey at the time.
The U.S. Attorney’s office also responded with a statement: “The Supreme Court’s decision speaks for itself, and we are bound by that decision.”
In a statement, Kelly said:
Last June, I was so appreciative when the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and agreed to hear my case. Today, the Court gave me back my name and began to reverse the six-and-a-half-year nightmare that has become my life.
Having been maligned, I now stand with my family and friends knowing that due process worked. While this may finally have made this case right for me, it does not absolve those who should have truly been held accountable.
I would like to thank my amazing legal team of Michael Critchley, Mike Critchley, Jr., Edmund DeNoia, and Yaakov Roth.
Today, I want nothing more than to hug my children knowing they will have their mom with them always. Thank you to all of my family and friends for never wavering in your love and support.
Baroni also released a statement:
I am thankful for the Supreme Court of the United States for this clear statement of my innocence. After years of investigations, indictments, trials, appeals and even prison, today the Court has vindicated me and has made clear that I committed no crime.
I have always said I was an innocent and today, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed.
These have been very difficult years for me, my family and my friends. There were many tough days, and it was their faith in me and my innocence that allowed me to get through this.
My legal team has been extraordinary. Mike Levy and the team at Sidley Austin are extraordinary legal professionals, and it was clear the Supreme Court saw one of America’s top lawyers argue my case. Mike and I have known each other from the first day of law school at the University of Virginia. He is an amazing lawyer and true friend.
I have been asked do I regret going into prison even thought I have now been vindicated. I don’t. My fellow inmates at Loretto prison taught me so much about strength, resilience, and determination. They kept me going, even on the other side of the jail bars. And I shall always be there for them. I hope and pray they are well taken care of in this perilous time of COVID-19.
I want to thank my family who supported me and kept me strong. They never let me give up, never let me give in, and encouraged me to keep fighting all the way to the Supreme Court.
I want to thank my friends who were always there for me: coming with me every day to the trial; keeping me upbeat even in dark times and never letting me give up. You can tell who your friends are when you go through something hard; I am so blessed with great and amazing friends.
Christie followed with a statement of his own:
The unanimous decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court ends a 6 ½ year political crusade of former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and the Obama Justice Department against Bill Baroni, Bridget Kelly and dozens of members of my Administration. As many contended from the beginning, and as the Court confirmed today, no federal crimes were ever committed in this matter by anyone in my Administration. It is good for all involved that today justice has finally been done.
What cannot be undone is the damage that was visited upon all of the people dragged through the mud who had nothing to do with this incident by the prosecutorial misconduct and personal vindictiveness of Paul Fishman. Despite being repeatedly told by numerous respected members of the bar during the investigation that he was inventing a federal crime, Paul Fishman proceeded, motivated by political partisanship and blind ambition that cost the taxpayers millions in legal fees and changed the course of history. Worst of all, Fishman allowed Bill Baroni to go to jail for federal crimes he invented.
The leadership of the Obama Justice Department is also culpable for permitting this misconduct to happen right under their noses, authorizing Paul Fishman to weaponize the office for political and partisan reasons.
The U.S. attorney’s office said the “Supreme Court’s decision speaks for itself, and we are bound by that decision. Beyond that, we have no comment.”