WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly have prevailed before the highest court in the land.
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court relased its unanimous opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan declaring that the former Christie aides “could not have violated the federal-program fraud or wire fraud laws” owing to the fact that the notorious George Washington Bridge lane closings, conceived during the Republican governor’s 2013 reelection campaign, didn’t “aim to obtain money or property.”
The Court emphasized that its decision was turning on an application of federal law to the circumstances of the case, not a moral judgment of the politically-motivated lane closures.
“The question presented is whether the defendants committed property fraud. The evidence the jury heard no doubt shows wrongdoing — deception, corruption, abuse of power. But the federal fraud statutes at issue do not criminalize all such conduct,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court. “Under settled precedent, the officials could violate those laws only if an object of their dishonesty was to obtain the Port Authority’s money or property.”
“For no reason other than political payback, 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,” Kagan concluded. “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. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”