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William Baroni Jr., former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, left, and Bridget Anne Kelly, former deputy chief of staff for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, exit the federal courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, back in November 2016. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

In Kelly v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed the “Bridgegate” convictions of Bridget Anne Kelly and William Baroni Jr. The decision follows from the court’s prior holdings that the federal mail and wire fraud statutes do not impose standards of good government on public officials, and that a scheme directed to the exercise of regulatory power is not prohibited by those statutes. In that respect, the decision does not break new ground. But the court also found that while the scheme resulted in the taking of property (the paid time of public employees), that taking was not the “object” but merely “an incidental byproduct” of the scheme. That aspect of the holding may well create new defenses and raise the prosecution’s burden in future fraud cases.

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