facebook linkedin twitter

Unanimous Supreme Court Tosses Out ‘Bridgegate’ Convictions

May 7, 2020 by Dan McCue
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.”

Supreme Court

October 22, 2021
by Dan McCue
Justices To Hear Texas Abortion Case on Monday Nov. 1

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court will hear a challenge from the federal government and abortion providers to Texas' 6-week abortion... Read More

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court will hear a challenge from the federal government and abortion providers to Texas' 6-week abortion ban on Nov. 1, but will leave the law in place while it considers the cases, the court said on Friday. As is their custom, the... Read More

October 15, 2021
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court Commission Finds Crisis In Senate Confirmation Process

WASHINGTON -- A presidential panel charged with considering the pros and cons of altering the size and function of the... Read More

WASHINGTON -- A presidential panel charged with considering the pros and cons of altering the size and function of the U.S. Supreme Court is instead calling out the Senate confirmation process for justices. In draft documents released ahead of a public meeting on Friday, the Presidential... Read More

October 14, 2021
by Dan McCue
Justices Consider Whether to Reinstate Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence

WASHINGTON -- On April 15, 2013, two Chechen-American brothers planted a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish... Read More

WASHINGTON -- On April 15, 2013, two Chechen-American brothers planted a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At approximately 2:49 p.m. that Monday afternoon, the bombs detonated 14 seconds apart, killing three and injuring 264 others. At least... Read More

October 4, 2021
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court Holds DC Not Entitled to Vote in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that denied District of Columbia residents a voting... Read More

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that denied District of Columbia residents a voting member in the House of Representatives. As is their custom, the justices did not explain the rationale behind their summary disposition of the case, though they... Read More

What's Old is New Again: Justices Back at Court for New Term

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is beginning a momentous new term with a return to familiar surroundings, the mahogany... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is beginning a momentous new term with a return to familiar surroundings, the mahogany and marble courtroom that the justices abandoned more than 18 months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. Abortion, guns and religion all are on the agenda... Read More

Abortion, Guns, Religion Top a Big Supreme Court Term

WASHINGTON (AP) — The future of abortion rights is in the hands of a conservative Supreme Court that is beginning... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The future of abortion rights is in the hands of a conservative Supreme Court that is beginning a new term Monday that also includes major cases on gun rights and religion. The court's credibility with the public also could be on the line,... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top