A former ally to Gov. Chris Christie who was the mastermind of the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing scheme will avoid prison after pleading guilty and giving testimony that helped convict two former aides to him, the AP reports. Federal Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark sentenced David Wildstein to three years' probation Wednesday along with 500 hours of community service and a ban on working in government. He faced 21 to 27 months in prison under a plea agreement, but federal prosecutors asked that he only get probation after his testimony helped convict former Christie staffer Bridget Kelly and Wildstein's former supervisor, former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni.
"All three of us put our faith in a man who neither earned it nor deserved it," Wildstein said in court of the three charged and Christie. "I willingly drank the Kool-Aid of a man I'd known since I was 15 years old." Wildstein's sentencing brings to an end a sordid saga that has left a cloud over Christie's administration, which is in its final months. The scandal contributed to his approval rating falling from around 70% to 15%. Christie wasn't charged but saw his presidential aspirations run aground by a scandal that dragged on for more than three years because of the scheme Wildstein launched to punish a Democratic mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie's 2013 re-election. Wildstein and both defendants contradicted Christie's account that he didn't know about the traffic jams or their purpose until months afterward. Kelly and Baroni were sentenced in March to 18 and 24 months in prison, respectively. Both have appealed their convictions. (Read more Bridgegate stories.)