‘Bridgegate’ Convictions in Danger at Supreme Court

“Bridgegate” marked the beginning of the end of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential hopes. The scandal’s consequences could prove more consequential if, as prosecutors fear, the criminal convictions in the case are thrown out by the Supreme Court, NPR reports. On Tuesday, the justices will revisit the case that made headlines in 2013 when, unbeknownst to the public, officials close to Christie ordered a shutdown of two of three access lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., on to the George Washington Bridge. The result was four days of chaos. The bridge, which connects New York and New Jersey, is the world’s busiest bridge, with 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles crossing daily. Officials appointed by Christie ordered the closings to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse Republican Christie for re-election.

Three officials were convicted of fraud. Port Authority executive David Wildstein pleaded guilty. Two others were convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison: William Baroni, deputy director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff. On Tuesday, lawyers will will argue that their actions were driven by a political motive, and while that may not be attractive, it is not fraud. If Kelly can go to prison, they say, there is no limit to who could be prosecuted, such as a mayor who rewards a supporter by ordering pothole repairs on her street instead of another. The federal government says the issue is not Kelly’s political motives, but rather the use of public funds to carry out and cover-up the Bridgegate plot. When it comes to white-collar crime and political corruption, the Supreme Court has made it difficult to prosecute wrongdoers. Justices have thrown out public corruption convictions and eviscerated broad statutes aimed at ensuring the honest services of public employees.

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