WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the criminal convictions of two associates of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie involved in the "Bridgegate" scandal in a ruling that places new limits on the kinds of political acts that can be prosecuted.
The justices, in a 9-0 decision, sided with Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, both of whom were convicted for their roles in a scheme to engineer traffic chaos on the world's busiest bridge to punish a local mayor who refused to endorse Christie's gubernatorial re-election bid.
"The evidence the jury heard no doubt shows wrongdoing - deception, corruption, abuse of power. But the federal fraud statutes at issue do not criminalize all such conduct," liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote on behalf of the court.
Kelly, a former Christie deputy chief of staff, and Baroni, a former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted in 2016 of wire fraud and misusing Port Authority resources. The Supreme Court ruled that their actions did not fit within the definition of fraud under federal law.
Prosecutors accused Kelly and Baroni of creating days of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, New Jersey, to New York City, the most populous U.S. city.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)