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Supreme Court Justices Appear Skeptical Of ‘Bridgegate’ Corruption Convictions

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.

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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