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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — While being sentenced this week for leading the George Washington Bridge lane-closing plot to punish a political opponent of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, David Wildstein said he had "willingly drank the Kool-Aid" of a man he met in high school.
Wildstein, who was only sentenced to three years' probation even though it was his idea to put the revenge plot into motion, said that he and the two fellow former Christie allies who he helped convict "put our faith in a man who neither earned it nor deserved it."
Nearly 40 years after serving as the statistician on the high school baseball team where Christie was the catcher, Wildstein's punishment may include running a nonprofit foundation for a former Major League Baseball player.
Charlie Hayes, who played third base for the Yankees, Phillies and other teams, offered to let Wildstein perform his 500 hours of community service by running a nonprofit foundation he's launching to connect underprivileged youth with the game of baseball.
"While I surely do not condone his behavior, David has impressed me as a person who regrets a terrible decision and is worthy of a second chance," Hayes wrote to Judge Susan Wigenton.
Wildstein is also writing a book with former Yankees pitcher Fritz Peterson.
Other than appeals from and a lingering lawsuit from New Jersey residents who say they were affected by the lane closure, Wednesday's sentence brings the saga to a close.
A look at some of the aftermath of the 2013 plot:
Christie was never charged in the scheme and has denied trial testimony from multiple people that he was told about the lane closures before they happened and while they were ongoing.
Peppered with questions about why Christie wasn't charged, U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said Wednesday that the government charged everyone who "we could build a case against."
"We believe the people that could properly be held criminally accountable were held criminally accountable," he said.
The lack of criminal charges hasn't stopped Christie from facing backlash in the court of public opinion. Christie's approval rating hovered around 70 percent in early 2013; two recent polls put it at a dismal 15 percent.
His campaign for the GOP presidential nomination foundered and he later admitted it was a factor in his not being named as Donald Trump's running mate.
BARONI AND KELLY
Former Christie staffer Bridget Kelly was sentenced in March to 18 months in prison, and ex-Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni was sentenced to 24 months.
They have appealed their convictions and are free on bail, tentatively scheduled to report to prison in late September.
In their appeal, defense lawyers said jurors acted improperly by disobeying the judge's orders during deliberations, among other alleged issues.
Taxpayers have spent more than $13 million in legal fees associated with the Bridgegate scheme.
That includes more than $10 million for a report from Gibson Dunn that cleared Christie of any wrongdoing, but was heavily criticized by Democrats as biased and incomplete because it didn't include interviews with several key figures.
It also includes more than $2 million paid to Christie's personal attorney for the matter, Christopher Wray. Wray appeared before the U.S. Senate this week after Trump chose him to replace Jim Comey as head of the FBI.
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