Former New Jersey Senator & Port Authority Executive Bill Baroni Speaks at Skeptics

Bill Baroni served in a number of roles during his years in public service, including as a New Jersey Assemblyman, State Senator and as Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey under former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. While at the Port Authority, his involvement in “Bridgegate” led to federal conviction, incarceration and, finally, a reversal of his conviction by the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Baroni spoke about lessons learned during his political and legal journeys when he joined the Society of Skeptics virtually on February 9.

Having grown up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Mr. Baroni’s interest in politics stems from his teenage years, when he worked on the re-election campaign of U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ-4). After earning his undergraduate degree in history from The George Washington University and JD from the University of Virginia School of Law, he worked as an attorney and adjunct professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law for several years, while keeping active on the New Jersey political scene.

Mr. Baroni served two terms in the New Jersey General Assembly representing the 14th legislative district from 2003 to 2007 and was subsequently elected as that district’s State Senator in 2007. Three years into Mr. Baroni’s senate term, then-Governor Chris Christie appointed him Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a position he assumed in March 2010. While at the Port Authority, Mr. Baroni oversaw six New York area airports, including Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, and Kennedy airports; the PATH train system; the six Hudson River vehicular crossings, including the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the third-largest seaport in the nation; the world’s busiest bus terminal; and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Baroni was removed from his role at the Port Authority in December 2013 following Bridgegate, a political scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. In November 2016, he and co-defendant Bridget Anne Kelly were convicted in federal court. In March 2018, Mr. Baroni was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, one year of probation and 500 hours community service. In June 2019, after serving three months in federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, the United States Supreme Court announced it was reviewing Mr. Baroni’s conviction. Mr. Baroni was immediately released from prison, 15 months early, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court process. In May of 2020, a unanimous United States Supreme Court overturned Mr. Baroni’s conviction, saying that he was wrongfully prosecuted and convicted. 

During his Skeptics presentation, Mr. Baroni trace his journey from a young person starting out in government, law and politics through his years as an elected official and at the Port Authority. He also shared the story of his time in the criminal justice system, as well as the lessons he learned while in federal prison and how those lessons can benefit all of us.

Mr. Baroni is currently assisting people who are awaiting their time in prison, who are incarcerated or who have recently been released from prison, using his experience to help them navigate the challenges they are facing. Working with the singer Jewel, he recently led the successful effort to get clemency for a father of six children who had served more than 12 years in prison for a white-collar offense—his original sentence was more than 30 years—one of the longest in American history. Mr. Baroni hopes that by sharing his experiences—good and bad—with the Blair community, he will help provide a lesson in things to do and to avoid doing, as well as a reminder that people can overcome difficulties and tough times.

“Finally,” he added, “I hope that my new friends at Blair took away from our time together, especially through questions and healthy dialogue, that life will come at you with many challenges; but a life in public service and law is still worth it.”

History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

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