In a bizarre outcome of the “Bridgegate” investigation into New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s role in orchestrating lane closures on a bridge, a former Christie confidant was sentenced Monday for pressuring United Airlines to reopen a route in the sky.
David Samson faced up to two years in prison on accusations he used his position as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to pressure United Airlines to continue its route between Newark, N.J. and Columbia, S.C., where Samson owned a summer home.
Samson got off with only a one-year home confinement sentencing, avoiding prison all together. Judge Jose L. Linares also ordered Samson to pay a $100,000 and gave him a four-year probation sentence, which his defense team had argued for, over a prison sentence, due to his age and ill health.
Governor Christie reportedly said in a statement about the sentencing, “This is a sad day for David and his family and friends. The court has ruled and this chapter is now behind us. David will now pay the price for his bad judgement.”
The case on Samson, 77, came about due to the investigation of the September 2013 scandal in which two former Christie aides were convicted of orchestrating the closure of lanes at the George Washington Bridge. The aim was to cause major traffic jams on one of the world’s busiest bridges as political payback for a local mayor who did not endorse Christie’s 2013 reelection.
Neither Christie nor Samson was charged in the Bridgegate case. However, the bi-state agency Samson led in 2013 operates the bridge, and aides testified at trial that he was aware of the lane closures as they occurred.
In the current case, Samson is on trial for threatening to block United from building a new hangar at Newark Liberty International Airport, which was overseen by the Port Authority, unless United began flying Samson’s preferred route to Columbia again, which he called the “chairman’s flight.”
The scandal led to the resignation of several United executives, as well as a more than $4.6 million payment by United to remove itself from any criminal or civil investigations without admission of wrongdoing.
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