Tags: Christie aides | Bridgegate

Bridgegate: Obscure Federal Law May Trip Up Christie Aides

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 11:08 AM

The top aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blamed in the Bridgegate scandal may face unusual federal fraud charges, according to The New York Times, citing sources close to the investigation.

The rarely-used fraud statute can be employed against members of any government agency receiving upwards of $10,000 a year in federal money, such as the Garden State and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.

The statute can be used to upgrade offenses committed by local government officials into federal crimes. And in this case charges could be made claiming that the bridge was used for a purpose other than the one it was intended for, the newspaper reported.

Last year, the access lanes from Fort Lee, New Jersey onto the George Washington Bridge were shut down, causing traffic chaos for three days, on the orders of Christie’s associates that was alleged to be petty political payback against a Democrat mayor.

The investigation by the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, Paul Fishman, has been hampered by the dilemma over whether the lane closings violated any federal law. Although the aides who caused the delays could be charged with official misconduct, that is a state, not a federal crime, the Times said.

Documents have shown that David Wildstein, then a leading official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Ann Kelly, then a senior aide to Christie, arranged the closures as revenge for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich not backing the governor's re-election campaign.

In one now infamous email, Kelly wrote to Wildstein, saying: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Wildstein later alleged that Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, knew about the traffic problems while they were still going on.

But Christie was recently cleared in a report by a New Jersey legislative committee of any prior knowledge of the plan to block traffic onto the bridge.

The federal probe has centered on testimony given by Bill Baroni, then Christie’s top staff appointee at the Port Authority, to the New Jersey Legislature, with the inquiry focused on whether there had been a potential attempt to cover up the political motive behind the delays by calling the shutdown a routine traffic study, the Times noted.

The federal investigation is one of three ongoing probes into the traffic nightmare and the resulting allegations of misconduct at the Port Authority.

The Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission are simultaneously investigating whether Port Authority funds were misused to flesh out Christie’s budget, along with other inquires, the newspaper reported.

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The top aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blamed in the Bridgegate scandal may face unusual federal fraud charges, according to The New York Times, citing sources close to the investigation.
Christie aides, Bridgegate
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2014-08-12
Friday, 12 Dec 2014 11:08 AM
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