Bridgegate and Criminal Fraud (Part 2)

by | May 30, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Kagan continued in relevant part: These statutes are “limited in scope to the protection of property rights,” and do not authorize federal prosecutors to “set standards of disclosure and good government for local and state officials.” McNally v. United States, 483 U. S. 350, 360. So, under either provision, the Government had to show not only that Baroni and Kelly engaged in deception, but that an object of their fraud was money or property. Cleveland v. United States, 531 U. S. 12, 26. The Government argues that the scheme had the object of obtaining the Port Authority’s money or property in two ways. First, the Government claims that Baroni and Kelly sought to commandeer part of the Bridge itself by taking control of its physical lanes.

Second, the Government asserts that the defendants aimed to deprive the Port Authority of the costs of compensating the traffic engineers and back-up toll collectors. For different reasons, neither of these theories can sustain the verdicts. Baroni’s and Kelly’s realignment of the access lanes was an exercise of regulatory power—a reallocation of the lanes between different groups of drivers. This Court has already held that a scheme to alter such a regulatory choice is not one to take the government’s property. Id., at 23. And while a government’s right to its employees’ time and labor is a property interest, the prosecution must also show that it is an “object of the fraud.” Pasquantino v. United States, 544 U. S. 349, 355. Here, the time and labor of the Port Authority employees were just the implementation costs of the defendants’ scheme to reallocate the Bridge’s lanes—an incidental (even if foreseen) byproduct of their regulatory object. Neither defendant sought to obtain the services that the employees provided.

This decision overturned the holdings of the federal trial court and third circuit court of appeals. The main defendant, Kelly, had her sentencing stayed. Therefore, she avoided serving any time in prison. Her co-defendant did not obtain a stay until he had already served several months in a federal prison.