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Supreme Court Justices Appear Skeptical Of ‘Bridgegate’ Corruption Convictions

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Members of the Supreme Court appeared skeptical Tuesday that onetime aides to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie committed a federal crime when they reallocated traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival.

Though the outcome was far from certain, a number of justices seemed to think that prosecutors abused federal anti-corruption statutes to obtain indictments against Bill Baroni, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Kelly, the governor’s deputy chief of staff. Kelly and Baroni say prosecutors are criminalizing bare-knuckle politics.

Kelly was joined in the courtroom Tuesday by Christie, whose presidential aspirations were derailed in part by the so-called Bridgegate scandal.

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At Kelly’s direction, Baroni reallocated traffic lanes over the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 to cause gridlock in nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey. They did so because Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, refused to endorse Christie’s reelection. The pair commissioned a bogus traffic study to justify the lane realignment.

Federal fraud laws make it a crime to obtain property by deceit. Prosecutors say Kelly and Baroni did just that. The Port Authority paid out some $3,700 in additional wages to cope with the high volume of traffic. Agency engineers spent 37 hours conducting the phony traffic study, amounting to about $1,900 in labor costs. What’s more, prosecutors say the defendants’ scheme deprived the Port Authority of its exclusive right to allocate traffic lanes.

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