On May 7, 2020, the Supreme Court unanimously held in Kelly v. United States that the “Bridgegate” political retribution scheme did not violate the wire fraud or federal-program fraud statutes. Although the government proved that the defendants devised and facilitated the closing of multiple lanes of the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, resulting in days of traffic gridlock, the Court reasoned that the charged conduct was an exercise of regulatory power that did not concern a property interest, and any implementation costs associated with the traffic lane realignment, although government property, were a byproduct of the scheme rather than its object. Because the defendants’ scheme did not have property as its object, as the federal fraud statutes require, the Court overturned their convictions. The Kelly decision is yet another chapter in a line of cases in recent years in which the Court has pushed back against what it found to be prosecutorial overreach in criminalizing conduct that, while unscrupulous, nonetheless does not violate federal fraud laws.
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