Chicago sports fans are very familiar with the phrase “what might have been.” They sometimes wistfully wonder what might have been if key injuries or pivotal plays had never taken place. (Most famous example: Steve Bartman.)
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a political example of “what might have been.” Once a promising presidential contender, his career was derailed by a 2013 scandal known as Bridgegate – a scandal that was today downsized by the U.S. Supreme Court when it unanimously overturned the convictions of two Christie allies on federal fraud charges.
A bit of background: the Bridgegate scandal revolved around a September 2013 plot by Christie allies Bridget Kelly and William E. Baroni Jr. to create gridlock on the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The scheme was in retaliation against the city’s mayor, who did not support Christie in an upcoming election. The governor’s allies had lanes closed on the bridge – the nation’s busiest – creating massive traffic jams for an entire work week.
Justice Elena Kagan chastised Baroni and Kelly for the “deception” that “jeopardized the safety of the town’s residents,” but pointed out that because they didn’t try to gain money or property, they “could not have violated the federal-program fraud or wire fraud laws.”
Kagan wrote that the court’s unanimous decision was consistent with previous rulings and did not require of justices a new interpretation of law.
After today’s ruling, Christie, who is a former federal prosecutor, said the Bridgegate prosecutor was told repeatedly during the investigation that “he was inventing a federal crime,” but he proceeded regardless. After a trial, Baroni was sentenced to two years in prison and Kelly was sentenced to 18 months – convictions now overturned.
The SCOTUS has again made clear that when overzealous federal prosecutors overreach, they can waste taxpayer money, the court’s time and often ruin careers and lives in the process.
Successful appeals require representation by an attorney with a detailed understanding of the law, the appeals process and a dedication to justice and the protection of constitutional rights. If you have been wrongly convicted in federal or state court, contact The Law Offices of Darryl A. Goldberg to schedule a safe consultation by phone or video conference.