U.S. (ECWd) -
SCOTUS is hearing a major public corruption case, aka "Bridgegate" on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 which could impact future public corruptions cases nationwide, including those in Illinois.
This case appears to center around a public official's concealment of a political act (a stated public policy decision), and the "true" undisclosed motive behind the decision, even when the decision itself was otherwise within the public official's authority to make.
The question presented to the Supreme Court is this:
Does a public official “defraud” the government of its property by advancing a “public policy reason” for an official decision that is not her subjective “real reason” for making the decision?
The following are taken directly from the Petitioner's Writ, which can be read in its entirety here or below:
- This prosecution arose out of the so-called “Bridgegate” affair, in which senior political officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reallocated two traffic lanes over the George Washington Bridge in a way that increased traffic in the town of Fort Lee—while decreasing it elsewhere.
- The prosecution’s core allegation was that the Port Authority’s deputy executive director (Bill Baroni) and an aide to New Jersey’s Governor (Bridget Kelly) ordered the change to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for not endorsing the Governor’s reelection. That political motive drove their actions, prosecutors argued, rather than “the best interest of the people of New Jersey.” JA.886.
- The Third Circuit affirmed the convictions of those officials under the statutes prohibiting wire fraud and fraud from federally funded programs. [...] by citing a traffic study as the reason for the realignment, despite their “true purpose” being political payback. That is to say, the “fraud” here—and the basis for seven convictions under two federal criminal statutes—was the concealment of political motives for an otherwise legitimate official act. All that separates a routine decision by a public official from a federal felony, per the opinion below, is a jury finding that her public policy justification for the decision was not really and
truly her subjective reason for making it.
The Writ is an interesting read, and we suggest reading the entire document.
You can access these docs and more on the SCOTUS website (here) and click on January 14, 2020, then click on Kelly v. United States (18-1059).