Unanimous Supreme Court Tosses Out ‘Bridgegate’ Convictions

May 7, 2020 by Dan McCue
Unanimous Supreme Court Tosses Out ‘Bridgegate’ Convictions
Bridget Kelly, left, and Bill Baroni leaving federal court after sentencing in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court tossed out the convictions of two people involved in New Jersey’s “Bridgegate” scandal Thursday, concluding their prosecution was a case of prosecutorial overreach.

“The question presented is whether the defendants committed property fraud,” said Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the unanimous court.

“The evidence the jury heard no doubt shows wrongdoing — deception, corruption, abuse of power. But the federal fraud statutes at issue do not criminalize all such conduct,” Kagan said. “Under settled precedent, the officials could violate those laws only if an object of their dishonesty was to obtain the Port Authority’s money or property.”

Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni were convicted of fraud and conspiracy stemming from their roles in creating a massive traffic jam in 2013 to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for refusing to endorse the reelection of then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

After Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, rejected demands for his endorsement, Kelly, then an aide to Christie, sent an email to officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that said, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

To disguise their efforts at political retribution, Kelly and Baroni and other officials involved in the effort claimed the ensuing lane realignment was being done for a traffic study.

The lane realignment caused four days of gridlock in Fort Lee.

According to the ruling, the community’s streets came to a standstill almost immediately, with traffic rivaling that of Sept. 11, 2001, when the George Washington Bridge was shut down due to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

“School buses stood in place for hours. An ambulance struggled to reach the victim of a heart attack; police had trouble responding to a report of a missing child,” the ruling said, quoting Fort Lee officials.

Sokolich’s calls to the Port Authority were met by silence from the officials.

“Is it wrong that I am smiling,” Kelly said in a text message at the time.

“As Kelly’s own lawyer acknowledged, this case involves an ‘abuse of power,'” Kagan wrote.

“Baroni and Kelly used deception to reduce Fort Lee’s access lanes to the George Washington Bridge — and thereby jeopardized the safety of the town’s residents,” she said. “But not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime.”

In this case, she explained, “the realignment of the toll lanes was an exercise of regulatory power — something this Court has already held fails to meet the statutes’ property requirement.”

“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,” Kagan said. “We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

A+
a-
  • Bridgegate
  • New Jersey
  • Supreme Court
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    Supreme Court

    June 14, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on ‘Bump Stock’ Firearm Attachments

    WASHINGTON — Dealing a blow to gun safety advocates, a sharply divided Supreme Court on Friday struck down a Trump-era... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Dealing a blow to gun safety advocates, a sharply divided Supreme Court on Friday struck down a Trump-era ban on “bump stocks,” an accessory used to turn a semiautomatic weapon into something comparable to a rapid-fire machine gun. In a 6-3 ruling, a majority... Read More

    June 13, 2024
    by Tom Ramstack
    Democrats Criticize Chief Justice for Supreme Court Ethics Enforcement

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats criticized the Supreme Court's chief justice Thursday for failing to enforce ethics standards on the court... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats criticized the Supreme Court's chief justice Thursday for failing to enforce ethics standards on the court as they consider a proposal to intervene. Lawmakers were discussing a Senate Judiciary Committee bill to impose a new code of ethics on the Supreme Court.... Read More

    US Supreme Court Rules to Preserve Access to Abortion Pill Mifepristone

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled unanimously to preserve access to the abortion pill mifepristone, a pill used in the... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled unanimously to preserve access to the abortion pill mifepristone, a pill used in the most common way to end a pregnancy. The medication was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the United States last year. The ruling is the court's... Read More

    Supreme Court Has Lots of Work to Do and Little Time to Do It With a Sizable Case Backlog

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is headed into its final few weeks with nearly half of the cases heard this year... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is headed into its final few weeks with nearly half of the cases heard this year still undecided, including ones that could reshape the law on everything from guns to abortion to social media. The justices are also still weighing whether former... Read More

    The Washington Post Said It Had the Alito Flag Story Three Years Ago and Chose Not to Publish

    NEW YORK (AP) — Nine days after The New York Times reported about the political symbolism of an upside-down American... Read More

    NEW YORK (AP) — Nine days after The New York Times reported about the political symbolism of an upside-down American flag that flew at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's home, the Washington Post acknowledged it had the same story more than three years ago and... Read More

    May 28, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Supreme Court to Consider Challenge to ‘Vague’ EPA Rules

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear San Francisco, California’s, challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority... Read More

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear San Francisco, California’s, challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to tell cities not to pollute water bodies without setting specific limits to guide them. The central issue in the case revolves around the city’s practice... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top