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Christie ally guilty, squeezed airline for route to second home

Attorney Justin Walder, right, and his client David Samson, former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman, walk from Federal Court after a hearing Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Newark, N.J. Samson pleaded guilty Thursday to using his post to get United Airlines to run direct flights to South Carolina so that he could more easily visit his vacation home. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
Attorney Justin Walder, right, and his client David Samson, former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman, walk from Federal Court after a hearing Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Newark, N.J. Samson pleaded guilty Thursday to using his post to get United Airlines to run direct flights to South Carolina so that he could more easily visit his vacation home. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
By Michael Catalini Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. – A political mentor of Gov. Chris Christie who headed the agency that oversees New York City-area airports admitted Thursday that he used his position to get United Airlines to run direct flights to South Carolina so that he could easily visit his vacation home.

David Samson, the Republican governor’s appointee to lead the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty to a bribery charge, acknowledging that he schemed with a lobbyist to delay approvals on a project as a way of pressuring the airline to relaunch the money-losing flight.

The ex-lobbyist, Jamie Fox, was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, but his lawyer said he would fight the charges. Fox, a Democrat, went on to work for Christie as the state’s transportation commissioner after ending his work for United.

Samson and Fox “both should have known better. They both did know better,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. “It was an unacceptable abuse of public authority.”

Fishman also announced United would pay a $2.25 million fine for the role its officials played in the scheme.

Samson, who served as New Jersey’s attorney general in 2002 and 2003, led the governor’s transition team in 2009, and Christie appointed him to the Port Authority chairman’s post in 2011.

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