Supreme Court Questions If ‘Bridgegate’ Scandal Was A Federal Crime

Peter Haskell
January 14, 2020 - 6:20 pm
Bridget Kelly

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images


WASHINGTON (WCBS 880) — Two central figures in the 2013 “Bridgegate” lane-closing scandal convicted of federal fraud charges were given the chance to try to clear their names before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

It’s been more than six years since traffic patterns were purposely altered on the George Washington Bridge in what prosecutors said was a form of political payback against a Democratic mayor who hadn’t endorsed then-Gov. Chris Christie.

Bill Baroni, who was with the Port Authority at the time, and Bridget Kelly, the former aide to Gov. Chris Christie, were found guilty at trial.

The two had claimed the bridge lanes were shut for a traffic study and have appealed their fraud convictions.

Now, the question is: is a lie just a lie or is it fraud?

Attorneys for Baroni and Kelly argued their actions were political, but not illegal. WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports the justices seemed sympathetic towards their cause.

The high court is not considering if the actions were appropriate, the case is strictly about the letter of the law, according to Haskell.

Lawyers for Kelly, who sent the infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email, admit in court papers her actions were "petty, insensitive and ill advised," but contend this was just politics, not a crime.

Meanwhile, former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rogers explained the defense argument.

"Just because a political figure lies about the reason for doing something that doesn't mean that it's technically a fraud," Rogers said.

The court's decision could have a far-reaching impact on how public corruption investigations are handled.

"Does that mean that basically any time a politician lies and some money gets spent it's a fraud case?" Rogers said.

Christie, who has always maintained his innocence and was never charged, watched the proceedings from the front row on Tuesday.

Haskell notes there was some drama in the court room when Kelly sat behind Christie, who fired her for role in the scandal.

The court's decision is expected this spring.

Supreme Court justices suggested during arguments that the government had overreached in prosecuting Kelly and Baroni, the Associated Press reported.