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Unanimous Supreme Court tosses out convictions in 'Bridgegate' scandal

'Not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime'

Bridget Anne Kelly (L)/Bill Baroni (R)/(Image source: YouTube News video screenshot)

The United States Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the federal convictions of two former New Jersey officials who played key roles in the 2013 "Bridgegate" scandal that occurred under then-Gov. Chris Christie (R).

In a unanimous decision, the court declared that "not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime."

What are the details?

Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a former official in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who was appointed by Christie, were found guilty in 2016 of fraud and conspiracy for ordering lanes of the George Washington Bridge closed and causing a major traffic jam in retaliation for a mayor refusing to endorse Christie for re-election.

Both were sentenced to prison. NBC News reported that "Kelly was to report in the summer but has been allowed to remain free while the case was on appeal. Baroni began serving his sentence in April but was released on bond when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case."

But the Supreme Court issued what called "a sharp rebuke to prosecutors" in their decision to toss out the convictions of Kelly and Baroni.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the court's 15-page ruling:

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. But not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime.
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.

U.S. Supremer Court overturns NJ 'Bridgegate' convictions

Christie himself has adamantly denied having any involvement in the Bridgegate plot, but the scandal has been blamed for contributing to his failed 2016 presidential run. He called Kelly's actions in the scheme "one of the most abjectly stupid things I've ever seen."

The former GOP governor celebrated the high court's decision in a statement, saying, "As many contended from the beginning, and as the Court confirmed today, no federal crimes were ever committed in this matter by anyone in my Administration. It is good for all involved that today justice has finally been done."

President Donald Trump reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, "Congratulations to former Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and all others involved, on a complete and total exoneration (with a 9-0 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court) on the Obama DOJ Scam referred to as 'Bridgegate.' The Democrats are getting caught doing very evil things, and Republicans should take note. This was grave misconduct by the Obama Justice Department!"

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