Supreme Court Tosses 'Bridgegate' Convictions

Traffic jam concocted as political revenge in New Jersey wasn't a federal crime, say justices
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2020 9:30 AM CDT
Supreme Court Tosses 'Bridgegate' Convictions
Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni. The convictions of the former New Jersey officials have been tossed.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Remember "Bridgegate"? That was the New Jersey scandal back in 2013 in which allies of Gov. Chris Christie created an epic traffic jam as political revenge. It's back in the news Thursday because the Supreme Court unanimously tossed the convictions of two Christie aides behind the move. The justices ruled that Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni may have lied to create the traffic jam in Fort Lee, but they didn't commit fraud under federal law, reports Bloomberg. “Because the scheme here did not aim to obtain money or property, Baroni and Kelly could not have violated the federal-program fraud or wire fraud laws,” the court ruled. In other words, as USA Today sums it up in a headline, this was "politics, not crime." Christie himself was not charged, though the scandal helped torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign.

The Christie aides snarled traffic on the George Washington Bridge under the false premise of conducting a traffic study, all because the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee didn't endorse Christie's bid for reelection, per Politico. The pair were convicted of fraud, but the court ruled that doesn't fly. "If US Attorneys could prosecute as property fraud every lie a state or local official tells in making such a decision, the result would be ... a sweeping expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction," wrote Justice Elena Kagan. She added that the move was indeed an "abuse of power," but "not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime." Kelly received 13 months but did not serve time as the appeals process unfolded. Baroni served 3 months of his 18-month sentence before being released on bail when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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