Back in 2013, Fort Lee New Jersey’s mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, refused to endorse outspoken (a nice way of saying he’s a prick) then Governor of New Jersey, Republican Christ Christie. Since they’re not even in the same fucking party, kinda makes sense.
Well, two grade A assholes William E. Baroni, Jr. and Bridget Anne Kelly, who worked for the Port Authority in New Jersey, which manages the George Washington Bridge, and who also worked for Christie, decided that they’d get revenge against Sokolich, in the most petty, but kinda humorous way possible.
You see, the bridge has three lanes during rush hour, that are segregated off for people from Fort Lee to use, as part of the interstate agreement between New Jersey and New York.
Kelly and Baroni decided they’d close those lanes, claiming they had to do a traffic study, which backed up traffic for hours for the people of Fort Lee. At one point, a 911 call led to an ambulance getting stuck in this jam, and having to get out and walk to the call. So that’s not cool. But aside from that, it is kinda hilarious.
Anyway, their shenanigans were uncovered, and these mildly comedic assholes were sentenced to prison for the federal crime of fraud.
The argument being, they violated the property rights of the Port Authority doing what they did, because that bridge was the Port Authority’s property to use at that time.
Baroni, Kelly, and their ambulance chaser of a lawyer argue however, that while what they did was petty and immoral (and hilarious), they don’t feel it meets the definition of fraud, because if that’s true, any official who lies about a reason for doing something that would otherwise be perfectly legal, they’re guilty of fraud.
It’s a stretch, but when you’re looking at 18 months of hard time, you’ll say anything I guess. They also argue that the federal government is sticking it’s nose into state government issues, which is counter to the “state’s rights” mantra of most law in the United States.
They also argue, that no fraud was committed. They merely allowed usage to go to a different group of people, they didn’t deny use of the property as a whole. To expand on that, they were basically saying, if they diverted the bridge in such a way, as to use it for personal gain, then they agree they committed fraud. But if you just make a regulatory decision that diverts usage from one citizen to the other, and not for personal gain, that can’t be fraud, otherwise every regulatory decision is potentially fraud if it’s determined the decision for that regulation was one that people felt was wrong.
If all those arguments weren’t ballsy enough, they actually argued that they did in fact do a traffic study. Sure the reasons for doing it were politically motivated, but they did in fact do the damn study. So it can’t be fraud, because they really did do the study. They just did it for petty political reasons. This should win the case for them for no other reason than it’s fucking hilarious.
The United States argument is, that just because they did a study, doesn’t make that shit legit. No one commissioned the study, and the study wasn’t performed in the state’s interest, it was made up for political reasons, for fuck’s sake. Even if there was some sort of data obtained from the study, that doesn’t negate the motive behind it.
SCOTUS heard all these arguments, and unanimously decided that not all corruption arises to the level of a federal crime. They decided that these two assholes are just assholes and not felons. Judgement for Kelly and Baroni.
Read about the case and hear oral arguments here.
Associated Press reported on the decision here.