Thursday, July 14, 2016

David Samson pleads; Ex-NJDOT chief Jamie Fox charged

David Samson, a longtime confidant of Governor Christie, pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of using his former position as chairman of the Port Authority to pressure United Airlines to reinstate a flight to South Carolina, where he had a weekend home.

The Record's Paul Berger and peter Sampson report:

Prosecutors also filed a criminal complaint against former state Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox — who was appointed by Christie — charging him with conspiring with Samson and others in the bribery scheme that induced United to reinstate the flight.

United officials have not been charged, but the

airline must pay $2.25 million in fines and cooperate with the investigation of Fox, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.

Standing in a packed courtroom at the federal court house in Newark, Samson admitted his involvement in the scheme to U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares.

Under the terms of a plea deal, Samson could be sentenced to a term ranging from probation to up to two years in prison. Sentencing was set for Oct. 20.

Samson, who will turn 77 next month, pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly and corruptly soliciting and accepting a thing of value, specifically a non-stop flight to flight to South Carolina, intending to be influenced or rewarded in his official position as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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During questioning by the judge, Samson admitted that as chairman he had authority over the agency’s agenda and used this power to pressure United to reinstate a South Carolina flight that had previously been operated by Continental Airlines before it was merged with United.

Samson admitted discussing the flight with a consultant and senior United employees at a dinner meeting in New York City in 2011, at which he let it be known that the route had made travel to his home in South Carolina much more convenient before it was cancelled.

Fox was a principal of a New Jersey consulting and lobbying firm that had been retained by United Continental Holdings Inc., to assist it in matters involving the Port Authority, according to the charges.

Later, after learning that United was not interested in reinstating the flight, Samson admitted he pulled a hanger project off the agency’s agenda to pressure United.

Fox is accused of conspiring with Samson in a scheme to threaten to use Samson’s position to stall United’s plans to lease space at Newark airport for a maintenance hanger in a bid to pressure the airline into reinstate a twice-weekly flight to South Carolina for Samson’s benefit.

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